I’m going to miss Rob Ford – in a way. He was the gift that kept on giving. He was Toronto’s most entertaining mayor since Mel Lastman mused about the dangers of going to Africa and being boiled in a pot.
Now that the man who promised to trim the fat has himself been trimmed, Ford foes are rejoicing – “a touchdown for accountability!” crowed George Smitherman, who ran against him. Mr. Smitherman, you may remember, is the former provincial cabinet minister who dodged the eHealth bullet by getting out of town just before the sheriff arrived.
Mr. Ford is not gone yet, of course. Legal appeals might keep him in office for a long time. He’s betting (correctly) that lots of people will be outraged that he was removed from office by a judge and not by voters. These people think the judge used a sledgehammer to swat a fly. Mr. Ford got turfed over a measly $3,150 – money he raised for disadvantaged teenagers who wanted to play football. He didn’t take a penny for himself. He did use city letterhead to write solicitation letters. So what? It was a trivial offence.
But other people believe Mr. Ford is a bully and a buffoon – the 10th-rate mayor of a world-class city. They’re relieved he’s on the way out. He made us a laughingstock.
To his fans (mostly in the suburbs), he was a meat-and-potatoes rebuke to the free-spending, latte-loving leftists and their union cronies who rampaged through City Hall for far too long. He is not an egghead. He does not use words with many syllables. But that’s a plus.
And he is right about one thing: Our city is in desperate need of reform. It is a bloated, sprawling mess. It has about 50,000 people on the payroll, which is several times more than the British Empire needed to run the Raj. Its citizens are so hornswoggled by red tape that they can’t get permission to sell poutine on the street or cut a tree in their own yards. City council is dysfunctional. It spends most of its time passing resolutions to ban plastic bags.
I didn’t mind Mayor Ford at first. He did some good things. He contracted out garbage collection. He settled with the workers. The trouble is, he hates everything about the downtown. The only place he enjoys himself is on the football field, coaching his team. He refuses to be the mayor of all the people – or even most of the people. If you’re not on his side, you’re the enemy. He once said of cyclists, “My heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.”
Mr. Ford is a divider, not a uniter. His head is thick as concrete. Not even his brother Doug can pound an unwelcome idea into it. He is impervious to good advice and oblivious to the line between his public and his private duties. Only a blockhead would commandeer a city bus (in service at the time) to take his football players home from a game. (No one will admit the mayor caused this to be done, but everybody knows it wouldn’t have happened without him.)
If Mr. Ford had shown some contrition before the the judge – some minimal respect for due process and the law – he might well have gotten off. But he did not. The judge, by all accounts a man of probity, was scathing and blunt. He condemned the mayor’s “stubborn sense of entitlement,” and he was exactly right. Mr. Ford’s serial abuses of power were trivial, but they were also relentless and profoundly stupid.
The judge’s decision is a big win for the people who want things to go back to the way they were. And it’s entirely Mr. Ford’s own fault. And for those who think things can hardly get worse at City Hall, I have just two words: Olivia Chow.