BY EDWARD KEENAN
Noted theologian Douglas Ford, Jr., ventured out of his study today into the pages of the Toronto Sun, where he compared the council scolding of the mayor, his brother Rob Ford, to the passion of Jesus Christ. Those familiar with the biblical stories of the alleged saviour of mankind and with the stories of the admitted crack mayor of Toronto might think the parallels is itself a
delusion requiring substance abuse to envision miracle on the order of the loaves and fishes. But there you have it from the brother-in-chief: let he who is without sin cast the first stone, don’t be “holier than thou,” and thou shalt not make a gentle resolution “urging” the alleged substance-abusing, racial-slur-spewing, sexually harassing, drunk-driving, gangster-consorting, suspected-sex-worker-entertaining, underling-assaulting, absentee mayor to take a short leave of absence and find help expelling his demons.
Let us consult the Gospel of Rob: “Be very careful on [sic] what you write.”
Very well then, let us be now very careful. Aside from his considerable admissions (to drunkenness, to buying illegal drugs within the past two years, to smoking crack in a “drunken stupor,” and—oh, those more innocent times—to reading while driving), the allegations above, and below, have not been proven in court or anywhere else. Instead, they are contained in a police search warrant issued for the arrest of his friend—Sandro Lisi, a.k.a. He Who Shalt Not Be Thrown Under The Bus—and were recorded there based on interviews with his current and former staff members. “I’m not a rat,” His Crack Mayorness said repeatedly yesterday. But apparently many of his staff do not abide by the Office of the Mayor’s “No Snitching” commandment (as foretold by the prophet Chamilionaire). They apparently felt that cooperating with a police investigation and describing the decadence, depravity, and alleged possible criminality of their work environment served a higher purpose.
And there he was himself, this morning, announcing that he would be filing lawsuits against his former staff members and the waiter at the Bier Market who claimed he was “doing lines” on a table in the bar, that his friend Alana is not a prostitute (as staffers told police they suspected she was), and that the Argos would “spank their little TiCats.” Oh, and then he said this: “Olivia Gondek says I wanted to eat her pussy. I’ve never said that in my life to her, I would never do that. I’m happily married—I’ve got more than enough to eat at home.”
And with that happy image of the sexual buffet table that is the mayoral marriage, we are left to once again recover from smashing our heads against our desks and look at this place we’re all at. This mayoralty is like a window into our civic id: beginning with a policy platform based on selfishness, petty resentment, and idiotic destructiveness; proceeding through a wanton disregard for procedure and ethics; now wallowing in drug abuse, outright and apparently unrelenting crudity, alleged abusiveness, and strong hints of criminality, and all of it underlined by an childish disregard for the safety—or even the dignity—of others. Rob Ford is like a highly contagious sickness that has attached itself to Toronto’s politics. Or maybe more like an addiction.
He looked so harmless, and it even felt kind of good to see him disregard the stuffy formalities and pieties that normally accompany high office. And he offered a quick-fix kind of satisfaction in his sloganeering. Every drunk knows the bender will probably end badly, but as the first few sips settle in and the blurry euphoria takes over your brain, it’s nice to think for a while that you can leave your problems behind as easily as you order another round.
Well, now we have the municipal hangover to end all hangovers. And yesterday city councillors showed they’ve experienced the morning-after syndrome a lot of Torontonians are feeling. They looked in the mirror and asked, in shock, “What the hell have I done.”
It wasn’t the mayor’s longtime political opponents measuring the crucifix of Doug Ford’s imagination. It was his apostles.
Mike Del Grande, Ford’s former budget chief, who voted with the mayor on 100 per cent of items last year, turned his chair away every time the mayor spoke early in the day, and rose to suggest the mayor had run out of do-overs—that his apology and promise of “never again” was used up way back in 2006 after he was ejected from a Leafs’ game. Thus Ford spake, like some child’s idea of playing “gotcha!”: “It has never happened again, at the Air Canada Centre.”
Michael Thompson, who voted with the mayor on 94 per cent of items last year, called out the mayor for hanging around in an alleged crack house (that the ITO says served as a campaign office for Ford in 2010). Ford insisted it is not a crack house, and asked Thompson if he’d been there. “I have no interest in going to that house. I do not use crack cocaine,” Thompson said.
Denzil Minnan-Wong, who voted with the mayor 97 per cent of the time last year and moved the motion to censure the mayor, gave a speech scorching the mayor, and stood up to what he alleged (and photos depict) was physical intimidation from Rob Ford right there during the meeting. And even as he complained, the mayor’s bully of a big brother shouted so long and hard, and refused to come to order for so long, that a recess had to be called.
Even as Ford and his brother—and to some extent their friend-of-convenience Giorgio Mammoliti— tried to strike back, making silly accusations of suspected pot use against other councillors and demanding others respect the mayor’s alleged shame and embarrassment and oh-dear-me-personal-struggle with stress and substances (although Ford himself says, “It wasn’t stress, it was pure stupidity.”)—more revelations were coming in the ITO. Details that seem to show a pattern. And which illustrate this pattern starkly. And a public office, paid with taxpayer’s money, put largely to the use of covering up the mayor’s base animalistic behaviour and catering to his appetites, and to richly rewarding those who did.
Even before this was all revealed in its fullness, council appeared to have had its moment of clarity. They voted to ask him to do the right thing, of course. But they also showed, all day long, in their laughter, and anger, and sadness, that they no longer fear this man.
Because that is the the element that has allowed his impulses to rule this city for so long. Fear. Fear of him and his brother, fear of their political machine, fear of offending the steadfast Ford Nation base. That fear has led us to this point. And seeing where we all are, the fear has evaporated. In 12-step meetings, you’ll often hear people say that the clarity of rock bottom comes from realizing your fear of continuing to allow your addiction to rule you is now greater than your fear of leaving it behind.
This city has problems it needs to deal with, arguments it needs to have, lots of things it needs to figure out. And we aren’t particularly good at it—electoral politics is a crude mechanism for resolving complex debates. But Ford and his toxic politics and even more toxic personal behaviour have made everything worse. It’ll be a while before we can wash the stains of the Rob Ford shitshow off our civic psyche, but we have started taking the steps to allow it to happen. By leaving our fear of Rob Ford behind, and letting our disgust with him replace it.
The Ford brothers keep repeating that he’s apologized, as if that is somehow sufficient to repair the damage he’s caused and inspire confidence in him again. Perhaps that’s the teaching in the Church of Ford they were raised in. But as long as he’s raised the prospect of Christianity, I’ll point out that in the sect of that faith I was raised in, forgiveness follows not just apologies, but acts of penance—a punishment served to atone for wrongdoing. And in civil, secular society we often expect people—as Ford himself so often demands—to accept punishment for the wrong they have done before we allow them to move on.
Jesus, his followers say, was sent to save us from our sins. Despite parallels drawn by his brother, it appears that Rob Ford was more likely sent to punish Toronto for ours. We can only hope that now that the error we’ve made is clear to us, having endured him this long will be penance enough allow us move on.
PHOTO: Steve Russell/Toronto Star