Skip to main content

Protestors gather outside City Hall calling on the resignation of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on Nov. 6, 2013.MOE DOIRON/The Globe and Mail

Politics Insider delivers premium analysis and access to Canada's policymakers and politicians. Visit the Politics Insider homepage for insight available only to subscribers.

It was just another day at Toronto City Hall.

The mayor whose infamy has travelled around the world ducked the media, appearing briefly behind the glass wall of his office, flashing a grin and even blowing a kiss to the reporters and photographers outside.

It was Take Our Kids to Work Day, so confessed crack user Rob Ford appeared with a group of schoolchildren in a glassed-in office annex known as the fishbowl, showing them around. What he told them about the burdens and responsibilities of high office is not known.

A little while later, the mayor had a chat with his friendly aide Tom Beyer, a dog lover who keeps a bowl of bubble gum on his desk, but who, mysteriously, had dozens of phone contacts with famous Ford friend and some-time driver Alessandro Lisi this year, according to police surveillance. The mayor leaned on the reception desk, just feet from the cameras focusing on him from behind the glass. He took his time, grinning and laughing – almost as if to say: Go ahead, take my picture.

At mid-afternoon, things got weird – okay, weirder – when former pro wrestler the Iron Sheik appeared outside the mayor's office in a wheelchair, challenging Mr. Ford to an arm wrestle like the one the mayor had with Hulk Hogan in happier times in August. When Mr. Ford "won" back then, he leaped to his feet and threw his arms in the air like a 12-year-old.

Just after the Sheik wheeled away disappointed, Elizabeth Hill, 71, a former school trustee, showed up to drop off a book for the mayor, Dr. Seuss's Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! The message was plain, but just to drive home the point, Ms. Hill read out the key words: "Marvin K. Mooney, I don't care how. Marvin K. Mooney will you please go now."

Outside on Nathan Phillips Square, a small Save Toronto rally delivered a similar message. One protester carried a placard that reads "Worst. Mayor. Ever."

The protesters – and simple passersby – spread their message by writing slogans in chalk on the same wall that held tributes to Jack Layton after his death in 2011. "Keep your crack, we don't want you back," said one, in the spirt of Dr. Seuss. "You are turning the city you claim to love into a joke," said another. "Never trust a guy in a football tie," said yet another. The pithiest and angriest simply said "liar" in big block letters.

After most of the wall was covered, people started coming by to read and take pictures. Anthropology student Kathleen Speckert, 22, said she didn't find Mr. Ford's apology convincing. She said he should have announced he was taking a leave or going into rehab.

"You are taught this from a young age: You make a mistake and then you own up it and then you learn from your mistakes, and part of the process of learning is taking steps towards, like, repairing," she said.

Down the road from city hall, in the steel canyons of the financial district, one person with broad knowledge of Bay Street said that as dramatic as this week's news was, he detected little outrage or anger.

"It's just this numbing almost depression, this soul-sucking feeling of almost just feeling it's a helpless situation," he said, asking that his name not be used. "We have been so desensitized to this story that even as the story gets progressively worse and horrifying and embarrassing, for some reason it's more a numbness than outrage."

Another executive, a leading light in the investment industry, said he was seeing a mix of shock, amusement and disbelief. "People who are parents who happen to be business people are particularly unhappy because they are having to explain to kids why it isn't okay to do crack," he said.

Back at the circus tent known as city hall, councillors tried to get on with the mundane business of government. The mayor's brother Doug, normally pleased to sound off to the media, slipped in and out of a meeting of the budget committee without talking. Inside the committee room, the topic of the day was 2014 Water and Wastewater Rates and Service Fees. In other words, taxes.

Even after the Big Admission, the wheels of government grind on.

Marcus Gee is The Globe's Toronto City Hall columnist.