The Rob Ford story changes; the Rob Ford story remains the same. The past year has been like a non-stop showing of Groundhog Day meets Barfly. The mayor is caught in a drunken stupor or a drug-addled state. He’s in a basement, or at a restaurant or in a bar. Racist invective is spewed. Or sexist phrases. Or homophobic words. Or all of the above. A heartfelt apology is issued. Promises are made to cease and desist, and to seek treatment. Change is guaranteed. And then? It’s rewind and repeat, again and again and again.
Late on Wednesday night, as this newspaper released details of a new video showing Mr. Ford smoking what appears to be crack, the mayor said he would be taking a leave of absence. Last year, when revelations about his habits, relationships and addictions first became public, a leave to seek medical treatment might have meant something. At least it would have been a start. But now? It’s more than a little late. He’s been lying for too long and carrying on even longer.
Mr. Ford on Wednesday said, “I know that I need professional help” and “I am now 100 per cent committed” to getting it. But he’s been saying as much for months. After the first crack video and police surveillance transcripts became public last year, he admitted to his long-denied crack use, swore that he would change and promised to seek help. Yet his behaviour remained the same as ever, as did his promises.
On Thursday, the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, and his mother both urged that Mr. Ford be left alone and given some privacy. But the man’s behaviour – the words that come out of his mouth, the things he puts in his body, and the people he chooses to spend time with – has been the subject of public interest because he’s a senior public official, the mayor of Canada’s largest city. And as of Thursday afternoon, voters still don’t know what he’ll be doing on this leave of absence, where he’s going or how long he’ll be there. It is not yet known if he’s going to rehab.
Rob Ford has not changed over the past year, and neither have the needs of the city of Toronto. He should have resigned a long time ago and he must resign now. More than ever, the city needs to be saved from its mayor. And the mayor, as always, needs to be saved from himself.