Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford ended his public workday at 3:30 most weekdays this fall, scheduling private time in the midafternoon and setting aside most evenings for calls and unnamed events, his official schedule shows.
The mayor’s comings and goings are a mystery at city hall. Mr. Ford does not make his whereabouts known and his official appearances are usually kept under wraps until hours before an event. This is a departure from the practice of former mayor David Miller, and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi posts a detailed list on his website of everyone he meets.
Schedules for the last four months of 2012, obtained by The Globe and Mail through a freedom of information request, show the mayor rarely did official city business after 3:30 p.m. They also show that after The Globe reported on Mr. Ford coaching after-school football practices, his office began labelling time in the afternoon as “private.”
“I personally have no problem with that,” said Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, when asked about the mayor’s habit of taking personal time during office hours.
Mr. Ford, he said, spends plenty of time in his off hours returning phone calls, including this weekend when he encouraged residents to call him if they had problems with the heavy snowfall.
“He did a lot of phoning on the weekend about the snow – he even called me,” Mr. Holyday said. Mr. Holyday said he had contacted the mayor, but had not left a message and Mr. Ford re-dialled his number, as is his habit, without knowing he was calling his own deputy mayor.
Councillor Doug Ford suggested Wednesday that much of the mayor’s work is behind the scenes.
“All I know is that guy’s busy,” he said. “When you get 400 or 500 calls a day and he tries to return ‘em – what’s he supposed to sit there in a telephone booth in front of everyone and return ‘em?”
Mr. Ford was not available for comment Tuesday, but a spokesman for his office responded.
“The mayor’s job is not 9-to-5, five-days a week and his work is not confined to his office or even to City Hall,” George Christopoulos said in an e-mail. “He takes private time in the afternoon many days, and then continues to work in the evenings, attending events and/or working by phone. He also frequently works weekends.”
The official record of Mr. Ford’s day gives little indication of how he spends his time.
On Sept. 10, for instance, the mayor left his seat as chair of the city’s executive committee five hours before debate ended to lead his Don Bosco Eagles Football team in a preseason match. The next day, The Globe found him on the gridiron again, leading an after-school practice with a member of his office staff. Neither event, captured on camera and reported in headlines, is reflected in Mr. Ford’s official schedule.
The week after reports of the after-school practices and the pre-season match, the mayor’s schedule changed and generic entries were slotted at the same time most weekdays. In one case, the standing entries continue on a day when Mr. Ford wasn’t at City Hall, but was on a plane to Chicago, although no details of his trade mission activities are recorded in his schedule.
The entries follow the same pattern most days: “office/reading/correspondence” at 9, “Mayor’s daily briefing” at 10, and “meeting window” at 11. Noon is set aside for “office/reading” and most days end with “call/events” beginning at 7 p.m.
Only two weekday evening events are recorded for the period between Labour Day and Christmas break – the Mayor’s Ball for the Arts on Oct. 15 and the Chief of Police Gala on Nov. 6.
No accounting of the mayor’s time is given for the days Mr. Ford spent in court in November defending himself in a libel trial, nor is there a record of the day he missed court that week to coach his team in a playoff game. His trip to Florida in December is recorded as “private.”
During the four-month period, the mayor’s schedule only names a handful of weekend events beyond his weekly Sunday radio show. Most Saturdays are blank or list “private” or “events.” The mayor opened a park in October, attended a Variety Village fundraiser and bakery anniversary in November, marked Remembrance Day, marched in the Santa Claus parade. On Grey Cup weekend he attended a pancake breakfast, met the mayor of Calgary and attended the game. In December, a Chanukah celebration was his only scheduled weekend event.
Councillor Adam Vaughan, one of Mr. Ford’s most vocal opponents, said the official schedule shows that aside from following him, there is no way to tell how the mayor spends his time. “What it really shows is the work of the mayor is not being done by the mayor, no matter how he dresses up his schedule,” he said.
Other events recorded during the four months include: a meeting with the city ombudsman in September and with the integrity commissioner in October; a meeting with David Mirvish in September; calls to provincial Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson; a meeting with OLG chair Paul Godfrey and CEO Rod Phillips; and meetings with the consul-general of China, the consul-general of the Philippines and the mayor of Sora, Italy.
With files from Sunny Dhillon