It’s not funny any more. The mayor of Toronto has turned from a running gag into a crisis for the city. He’s lost the moral authority to govern. This issue is not trivial. Anyone who thinks he’ll quit of his own volition is in denial. So now, we face a test. How do we disable him?
The problem is not that the mayor is a hideous embarrassment to the city’s reputation, or even that he used hard drugs while in office and lied about it. The problem is that the chief magistrate (as he is still called) no longer has the credibility to deal with the biggest crime problems in the city. He consorts with thugs and hoodlums who’ve been charged with trafficking in guns and drugs. He allowed himself to be videotaped smashed on booze and crack – maybe once, maybe more than once, who knows? His conduct has made him a candidate for blackmail. It’s likely that whoever took the video figured it would be useful as leverage to extract favours from him. Instead of fighting crime, he appears to have helped spread it.
Rob Ford has lied, or else been silent, about these things for months. He says he has nothing to hide, but he refuses to be interviewed by the police. His brother Doug, alleging bias, has declared war on the police chief.
It’s all very well to wring our hands and say that Mr. Ford should step aside and get help. But it’s obvious that he won’t. The mayor is in deep denial. He has the insight of a tree stump. An armchair psychologist would probably diagnose him with a narcissistic personality disorder – characterized by a nasty combination of boastfulness, entitlement, arrogant behaviour, hypersensitivity, anger issues, and an inability to recognize other people’s points of view. These traits mask a deep sense of insecurity. People like this tend to blame everyone but themselves. They are also unusually prone to addiction. That Mr. Ford has issues with various substances, including food and booze at the very least, is beyond doubt. The prognosis for behavioural change is poor.
But Mr. Ford is also shrewd. So long as he’s in office, he has a platform to defend himself. He can keep insisting the police are out to get him. The media will keep hanging on his every word. And he will have more resources when the next shoes drop.
“Folks, I have nothing left to hide,” the mayor said on Tuesday. But that’s doubtful. There are a lot more shoes to drop. Some of the wiretap evidence will probably be made public, and then we’ll likely find out what Mr. Ford and his former driver were saying to each other in their hundreds of phone calls.
Not that we need more information to make up our minds. Mr. Ford has lost his ability to govern. The fact that there is no easy way to remove him from office is no excuse to do nothing. City councillors can find ways to work around him. If they can’t, Torontonians should phone and e-mail and march on City Hall and refuse to pay our property taxes until they do. People should refuse to work for him or invite him to events. They can isolate him and shun him and let everybody know that he does not speak for the city.
The idea that public officials should be held to higher standards of behaviour than trailer trash may seem quaint these days. But still, what are we supposed to tell the kids? That powerful people can get away with lying so long as they confess (sort of) after they get caught? That so long as you apologize, there are no consequences? Mr. Ford has not been charged with breaking any law so far. But he’s not fit to coach a sports team. Maybe the members of Ford Nation could ponder that, if there are any of them left.
Addicts will wreck your life if you let them. And this one is wrecking an entire city. We’re in denial if we think our toxic mayor will go away on his own. And Jon Stewart was absolutely right to roll his eyes at us for putting up with him. “That makes you enablers, eh?” he said to us the other night. As usual, he’s right. If we can’t figure out how to get our mayor off the stage, then we deserve him.