What happens now?
The Ford scandal has thrown the city into a weird kind of limbo. Mayor Rob Ford is facing calls to resign from all quarters. Allies such as former budget chief Mike Del Grande are saying he should step aside for his own sake and the good of the city. Editorials in newspapers of both the left and the right are calling for him to go.
Even the Toronto Sun, the tabloid that helped build his reputation, says it is time. An online poll in the newspaper said that by Friday afternoon, 70 per cent of respondents were saying the mayor should resign.
Yet, in his one brief statement to date, Mr. Ford said he has no intention of going. Technically speaking, there is no way to make him. He has not been charged with any crime and none of the recent allegations against him have been tested in court. Even if he were charged, he could not be removed unless he were convicted and sentenced. That would take time and he has just 13 months left in his current term.
The police say the notorious drug video they have uncovered won’t be released except through the court process, and the process of prosecuting Ford friend Alessandro Lisi for extortion could take time, too. In any case, even showing the tape in court or in public still might not persuade the mayor to depart. The extraordinary fact that police Chief Bill Blair has confirmed its existence has not done so, at least so far.
The mayor is a determined, single-minded, often stubborn person. His pattern when caught misbehaving is to deny, deny, deny. “I think he is in a place right now where he is not listening to a lot of advice. … He is kind of just going solo. He has got his head down. He’s in linebacker mode and he is pushing forward down the field,” his former chief of staff, Mark Towhey, told CP24 television.
His backers, in a equally typical reaction, are lashing out. His brother Doug says the mayor has been “convicted by the media,” ignoring the simple fact that many of the stories that have been published about the mayor have been confirmed by the police investigation and the discovery of the video – a video the mayor claimed did not exist.
Doug Ford also said in a radio interview with host John Oakley that Mr. Blair was “politicking” when he confirmed the existence of the video. The mayor’s lawyer Dennis Morris struck a similar note when he told The Globe’s Jill Mahoney that, “He’s being tried, he’s being convicted, he’s being executed by the chief of police.”
But there is a great deal of troubling information in the massive document released this week. There is nothing to stop the mayor from commenting on it. He is not facing any charges himself. If he were innocent of any wrongdoing, wouldn’t he want to explain what he was doing in all those shady meetings with Mr. Lisi?
Instead, we have had the usual boilerplate about his accomplishments. “I’m going to go back, I’m going to return my phone calls, I’m going to be out doing what the people elected me to do and that’s save taxpayers’ money and run a great government,” he said on Thursday afternoon.
To deny, to hunker down, to boast, to attack his critics – these are the classic responses of Rob Ford under fire.
But all is not lost for those who would like to see the mayor bring this mess to an end by stepping down. Pressure from city council is building. Many councillors feel he should go, or at the very least address all the questions about his behaviour and his dubious friends. Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly says he plans to meet with Mr. Ford on Saturday, with a mandate from the mayor’s executive committee to convey their concerns. “I hope that on reflection he will make the right decision,” Mr. Kelly said.
In Toronto at large, concern is growing as the gravity of the revelations sink in. The Toronto Region Board of Trade issued a statement Friday afternoon calling on the mayor to take a leave of absence and saying the city needs a mayor who can fulfill his duties as leader. “It is our view that Mayor Ford cannot effectively fulfill these duties and others while this cloud hangs over him and the city,” chief executive Carol Wilding said.
A tolerant city that has put up with the mayor’s antics for three years may finally be reaching its breaking point. The sooner he can be brought to understand that, the better.