Toronto has a mayor who has smoked crack, lied about smoking crack, claims to not remember it because he was in a “drunken stupor” at the time, has “gotten hammered” in public on numerous occasions, has exchanged hundreds of phone calls with a suspected drug dealer and extortionist, has been observed accepting mysterious packages from the same man, and has numerous associations with other people on the fringes of the law as detailed in, among other places, a 474-page police document. Rob Ford has also refused to answer questions about nearly all of the above. And he still shows no signs of planning on stepping aside, or stepping down.
Absent a criminal conviction – and he is not currently charged with anything – Mr. Ford cannot easily be removed from the mayor’s office. But the guy doesn’t operate in a vacuum. His drug admission has laid bare the level to which surrounding forces enable him to operate “business as usual,” while the city over which he notionally presides becomes a punch line.
Where is the rest of Toronto City Council? They intimately understand how Mr. Ford’s presence is more than just a “distraction,” or something to be “worked around.” City government is hamstrung with Mr. Ford at its helm and has been for some time. As a tiny step toward restoring normalcy, some councillors have been publicly urging Mr. Ford to take a leave of absence; a motion to that effect has also been drawn up and could soon be voted on by council.
A short visit to a detox centre? It’s hopelessly inadequate to the size of the problem – because Rob Ford’s problems go way beyond the substances he’s ingested.
Toronto city councillors do not have the power to remove Rob Ford from office. They do, however, have the power to make a statement. They can pass a resolution demanding that the Mayor resign for the good of the city. There’s no reason for any councillor to vote against it. Even long-time allies, supportive of the “Ford Nation” agenda of smaller government and tax cuts, have to recognize how much of a liability he’s become to the ideas he supposedly espouses.
And what about his colleagues in provincial politics? Take off the kid gloves already. Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak, one of Mr. Ford’s staunchest political allies, vaguely suggested that he “take that time” to tackle his personal issues and put his “family first.” Doug Holyday, Mr. Ford’s former deputy mayor and now an MPP, was a little stronger, suggesting that he take a leave because “I think he should seek help.”
The city of Toronto is the one that needs help. The term “enabling” has particular resonance around substance abuse. It describes the process of removing consequences, with disastrous results. Mr. Ford’s actions – and getting hammered and high is the least of it – should have consequences. Now, more than ever, it’s time for an intervention.