March 23, 2012
Dear people of Toronto:
Can we talk? Something has been bothering me. A lot of you have been acting all shocked and appalled at the performance of Mayor Rob Ford. The libraries fight. The Port Lands craziness. The 911-Marg Delahunty embarrassment. Now the transit cock-up.
But, hey, you voted for him. Yes, you – 47 per cent of you, anyway. You know who you are. Don't look sheepish, Mr. Cooper. Come out from behind the garden shed, Ms. Baltazar. It was you who gave this fellow his thumping mandate.
Tell me something: What did you expect? Mr. Ford had been on city council for 10 years when he ran for mayor. Thanks to his antics, he was in the news quite a bit. Unless you were living under a rock, you had to have a pretty good idea what he was about.
You knew he was a cranky Etobicoke councillor who said “Oriental” people “work like dogs” and cyclists have it coming if they are run over by a car. You knew about the dodgy behaviour like the abusive rant he pitched at an unsuspecting couple at a hockey game. You knew he had been upbraided for breaking council's integrity rules, only to thumb his nose at city officials when he was caught. You knew that he came to city council meetings when he felt like it, delivered a few juicy lines and checked out.
If you were paying even minimal attention, you knew all of this. If you knew it and voted for him anyway, you can hardly complain now. If you were not paying even minimal attention and cast a vote for him regardless, shame on you.
And don't say the media didn't warn you. When Mr. Ford was running for mayor in 2010, reporters and, ahem, newspaper columnists published dozens of articles on the many holes in his platform. They told you his budget numbers were wildly out of whack. They told you his plan to build a subway to Scarborough was all talk, no funding.
You voted for him anyway – willingly, enthusiastically, heedlessly, with your eyes wide open. Why? Often for no other reason than, heck, you liked the cut of his jib. He wasn't like that earnest smarty pants David Miller. He was real folks, even if his wealthy family owned a huge spread with Chinese fountains in Etobicoke. He ate at Tim Hortons. He liked Don Cherry and Wendel Clark. He said what he thought, never mind that most of it was bunk.
Some of you voted for him not in spite of his blustering, bulldozing persona but because of it. Here was a guy, you thought, who could send a few thousand volts through those overfed desk jockeys down at city hall. If he was a bit out to lunch, well, so what? It was only the city government, after all, so it didn’t really matter. How's that working out for ya, Toronto?
Now, thanks to you, he's our mayor. With the chain of office around his neck, he is still the same Rob Ford he was when he was only a suburban councillor who sometimes ran off at the mouth. He hasn't changed one bit. Still, the shrill outbursts like the one he let loose on the floor of city council this week. Still, the casual contempt for the facts. Still, the complete lack of interest in working together with other councillors to get things done. Still, the black-and-white, with-us-or-against-us view of the world.
The refusal to take part in Pride Week. The threats to rally “Ford Nation” to defeat anyone who stands in his way. The slogan-filled, reality-free campaign for “subways, subways, subways.” All vintage Ford.
The idea that he would mature in office or learn to listen to his staff on key decisions has proved an illusion. Before this week’s transit defeat, he rejected the best counsel of even his closest advisers. He is as detached and as stubborn as ever.
Just like in his councillor days, he spends a lot of time answering phone calls about unfilled potholes or talking on the air with sympathetic talk-radio hosts. The messy, complicated business of running the city or grappling with tough policy choices? Meh. Not his thing.
And now you're acting surprised? Honestly, “folks” (to borrow Mr. Ford’s way of addressing you), you’ve got some nerve. With Rob Ford, what you see is what you get. You saw. Now you've got. And we all have to live with it.