Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug say the firing of Councillor Jaye Robinson from the mayor’s executive committee has nothing to do with her remarks about the drug-video affair. They would have us believe that it is mere coincidence that she lost her post after suggesting that the mayor should give fuller answers about the allegations swirling around him or else consider taking a leave of absence.
“I find it amusing that they’re making a big deal” about Ms. Robinson’s firing, Doug Ford told reporters on Tuesday morning. The Ford administration was just making a “quick shift” in its inner circle, in the same way that provincial or federal governments shuffle cabinets. “We’re going in a new direction, folks,” he said. “The only people that are making a big deal about it is the media” and “We have a little biased media in this city – everyone knows it.”
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who has sometimes criticized the mayor himself, joined in the pile on. “I think she may have been trying to score some political points and to try and make some headlines,” he said.
That was an outrageous thing to say about Ms. Robinson, a respected, low-profile, centrist councillor who is the farthest thing from a headline seeker. She says she spoke out about the mayor’s troubles because she believes they are overshadowing the important business of the city. As a rookie councillor and a former public servant, she takes that business seriously.
Since winning election in 2010 for Ward 25, Don Valley West, she has distinguished herself as a well-informed, level-headed member of city council who makes her decisions on fact, not ideology. That is why she posed such a threat to the Fords. She cannot be written off as one of the “lefties” that they claim are out to get them. They can’t say she is speaking out as part of some dark plot to thwart their cost-cutting agenda. As a fiscal conservative herself, she has supported much of it, though she also differed with the Fords on issues such as a downtown casino and redevelopment of the Port Lands.
No, she spoke out on principle, from a sincere belief that the video affair is harming the reputation of the city. To let Toronto move on, she repeated on Tuesday, the mayor must “clearly and definitively and without ambiguity address the allegations that have now been circulating for more than three weeks.”
Is that too much too ask? Apart from one statement that he made under pressure a week into the video affair, Mr. Ford has made no reply to the numerous questions that are piling up around this mysterious and troubling matter. Does he know the murdered man, Anthony Smith, shown in a photograph associated with the video? Has he ever visited the house where, according to recent reports, the photograph was taken? Does he know the family that lives there, as a recent report in the Globe indicated? Did his recently fired chief of staff suggest that he go into rehab?
“I’ve answered all the questions, I’ve addressed everything,” the mayor told reporters on Tuesday. He has not – not by any stretch. Each time he meets the media, he bats away every enquiry about the video affair. His strategy, clearly, is to duck questions and change the channel.
To have a credible figure like Ms. Robinson telling him that it won’t do must have been irritating, to say the least. As even Mr. Minnan-Wong concedes, “the mayor was put in a very difficult position. Councillor Robinson was making some very personal comments about the mayor and the mayor really didn’t have much choice” except to fire her, he told reporters. So much for the coincidence.
Doug Ford himself made no secret of his annoyance at Ms. Robinson. He went after her in a TV interview for missing a recent meeting of the civic appointments committee. “I find it ironic that Councillor Robinson is telling the mayor, well just step away from his office and take a month break when she can’t even make it in to City Hall for a meeting,” he said. In fact, Ms. Robinson stayed away because she was sick in bed.
Now, just a few days after Doug Ford attacked her on the air, Ms. Robinson is gone from the mayor’s executive. A fine woman and an excellent city councillor is summarily fired after giving voice to her conscience and criticizing the mayor for failing in his responsibility to be open with the public. But don’t worry. Doug Ford says it’s no big deal.