Looking back on Tuesday's events in the cold light of the next day, it still seems unbelievable.
Unbelievable that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s brother, Doug, would stand up and call for the resignation of Police Chief Bill Blair, claiming that this cautious man wanted to put a “political bullet” between the mayor’s eyes.
Unbelievable that after months of saying he was the victim of a plot to smear him, the mayor would suddenly stop in front of a pack of reporters, invite them to ask a certain question and answer it with the words that flashed around the globe. You could see the heads of those who were listening snap sideways in disbelief, their mouths hang open in astonishment.
Unbelievable that, just hours later, that same mayor would stand in front of the television cameras and say, that, no, he was not resigning. This, in the end, was the most staggering moment of all. Could he be serious? Was this some sort of prank? City councillors who had waited for the non-announcement shook their heads in dismay and disbelief. Words like “betrayal” and “appalling” for once did not sound excessive.
Those who watched it up close could barely credit what they were hearing. For two hours, reporters stood pressed against the glass wall of the mayor’s office for what was expected to be a major announcement. Whispers went around: This, surely, was the end of the road for the city’s unstoppable bulldozer of a mayor.
But as the words came out of his mouth – “I love my job,” “I know I have to regain your trust and your confidence,” this will “never, ever, ever happen again,” “we have to get back to work” – the truth dawned: He was not leaving after all.
No, the man who admitted after months of denial to smoking an illegal drug; the man who said he probably did it in a drunken stupor, because, he concedes, he is in those sometimes; the man who sold himself to the voters as a straight shooter (honest as the day is long, his brother said) – he was staying on to fight for taxpayers.
Would he resign, as some city councillors and all four of Toronto’s major dailies are urging? No. Would he step aside and take a leave of absence, spending time to heal? Nothing about that either. Would he at least agree to seek professional help or take a holiday to rest up and consider? Not a bit of it.
He even dared to repeat a familiar boast about keeping his commitments and to mention the next election date: Oct. 27, 2014. In the space of a single day, he went from an admission that he hoodwinked the whole city to a bid for re-election.
As the import of that shocking day sunk in on Wednesday morning, the city was buzzing. What comes next? How, his critics wondered, could the mayor be forced to see the light, face up to his situation and go?
“The mayor has lost power and legitimacy at city hall,” Councillor Janet Davis said. “However, he is still in the position.” There’s the rub. “He needs to be isolated and shunned,” Councillor Adam Vaughan said. But how?
The series of procedural gambits being kicked around city hall – one would prevent Mr. Ford from removing his deputy or the chairs of city committees; another calls on him to co-operate with police and take a leave of absence – seem symbolic in the former case and impossible to enforce in the latter. The small anti-Ford rally in front of City Hall at lunchtime on Wednesday seemed unlikely to influence the mayor either.
The one thing that is clear is that this cannot go on. The mayor, Ms. Davis said, has lost all moral authority.
Does he seriously expect the city to rest assured now that he has said, “Folks, I have nothing left to hide.” Only this weekend, on his radio show, he was apologizing for a couple of episodes of public drunkenness. Now he is apologizing for using crack. What next?
Rob Ford asked voters to believe in him. Now he admits he deceived them. And he wants to stay? Unbelievable.