There’s an anxiety that is partly anticipation when writing about Rob Ford, that one will file the story and then the story will change. The phrase “at press time” appears frequently in stories about the mayor (Googles “Is Rob Ford still the mayor of Toronto?” Yes. Continues typing).
The sense that this simply cannot continue that has been building since news of a video allegedly showing the mayor (checks Twitter: My God, he’s the mayor) smoking crack cocaine now saturates Toronto, which is an exhausted city. And the question being asked by outsiders is why we cannot get rid of Mayor (checks again, man, he says he’s not going anywhere) Ford.
Last week, after months of obfuscation and denial, Mr. Ford (playing it safe for a few paragraphs with “Mr.”) admitted to having smoked crack. This week, faced with evidence unproven in court but mounting into an Everest-like form, the man admitted to buying illegal drugs while he was mayor (I greet you here past tense, in this sentence, like a cool drink of water) and to driving while inebriated.
Suppose we were to accept crack, as Mr. Ford seems to expect us to do, as a soft party drug found in average family homes. Mr. Ford grew outraged when questioned by a councillor about what police called a “crack house” he visits. The presence of a grandmother apparently makes the house where, an informant told investigators, people “chop” crack, into more of a “crack home” in Mr. Ford’s mind.
But let’s remove crack from the equation: The mayor’s (scans the news ticker, yes, still mayor) two new admissions (as of going to press) this week, would in normal circumstances result in the confessor either resigning or being removed from office.
Without further explanation along the lines of “Yes, I bought illegal drugs while in office. I bought black-market amoxicillin for a child with pneumonia while visiting a developing nation, shortly after I got behind the wheel after a couple of beers to drive a truck off that poor child’s legs. Anything else?” confessions of the kind Mr. Ford spat out this past Wednesday in the tone of a fifth-grader who has just broken an unloved classmate’s Tamagotchi, justly end political careers.
Why this hasn’t happened understandably confuses the world and I can offer only this explanation: We don’t have a mechanism for recalling a mayor. We’re Canadians and when it comes to getting rid of them at short notice, we mostly rely on our mayors having a basic capacity for shame – a thing both Rob Ford seems to lack.
Sure, he has apologized for smoking crack, driving drunk, being drunk at a public event and for buying illegal drugs. Mayor (checked and – stranger than fiction – he’s still chief magistrate of Canada’s largest city) Ford has repeatedly said “sorry” regarding his lapses. But to put this in perspective, he has said “sorry” about as many times as the average Canadian says “sorry” in the process of buying a newspaper, coffee and a butter tart.
It’s what we do. Saying “sorry” is how Canadians breathe. But whenever Mr Ford says sorry, he whines about how horrible it is for him to apologize.
His brother, Councillor Doug Ford, said of what Mayor (as of going to press) Ford has endured, “It is kind of like what they did to Jesus Christ.”
None of this is Canadian. We tend toward hockey analogies and humility, not entitlement, a quality Mayor (I have a news alert on now) Ford has in mind-boggling amounts.
He seems to think he can continue being mayor just because he has said, “I love being your mayor.”
That’s not Canadian! We love being warm, but we know damn well summer last only 12 weeks. We’re on unfamiliar ground here. We’re not equipped to deal with people like the Fords: In the face of raging, sulking, bullying men, we’re at a loss. Impoliteness is our Kryptonite.
Canadians are a principled and courageous people, sure, but had the Germans walked into our trenches at Vimy Ridge and put their feet up on the furniture, we might have just stared blankly in embarrassment until they won.
Certainly confronted with the image of Toronto’s (as of Nov. 15, anyway) mayor staggering around City Hall swigging from a bottle of liquor, yelling nonsensically at city staff, our laws and our nature leave us able to do little more than awkwardly suggest he use a coaster while those around him around him actually go about the sober business of being Toronto’s mayor.