The Ford Zone

Ivor Tossell on the vortex that surrounds the mayor every time his actions come into question

Chris Young/CP

The international coverage of Rob Ford’s latest scandal is like a splash of cold water to the face after a long, depressive funk. It’s amazing how easy it is to get used to a terrible situation, until outside perspective intervenes.

Within Toronto, the story has an almost time-worn feel: Yet another bizarre allegation against the mayor has surfaced, but since there’s no absolutely indisputable video record on-hand and the mayor denies everything, who’s to say what happened? Things muddle on; stay tuned for another totally futile debate about casinos or something next week.

From the outside the view is clearer: Two news organizations say they’ve seen video of the Mayor of Toronto allegedly smoking crack and making an assortment of bigoted remarks. Holy hell!

The more outrageous the claim, the blunter Ford’s denial, which amounted to a single word this morning – “ridiculous!” – and then a swift flight from the massed media.

Once again, the city has been plunged into the Ford Zone, the truth-or-lies vortex that surrounds the mayor every time his actions come into question.

The citizens of Toronto have spent too much time floating around in this inexplicable nether world. You might remember last month’s episode, in which a loyal member of Ford’s inner circle accused him of being asked to leave an event after acting intoxicated. Ford flatly denied it. Or the episode before that, in which a former political rival publically accused him of acting intoxicated and groping her at another event. Ford denied that too, and his accuser was savaged in the media.

Or, indeed the episode before that, in which Ford was accused of having willfully broken conflict-of-interest rules over a trifling amount of money, out of sheer willfulness, and Ford’s response in court was that his understanding of “conflict of interest” was different than that of pretty much anyone else in the room, except perhaps his lawyer.

(It seems almost quaint to discuss governance at this point – something Ford has largely given up on – but keeping policy issues suspended in the Ford Zone is how the mayor found himself stripped of power over transit, and left with his budget chief quit in disgust. The facts and figures would say one thing, but Ford simply denied them and insisted his version of reality was true. In these cases, reality won out.)

Time and again, the people of Toronto have been suspended between two mutually exclusive realities: The one in which the mayor’s version is true and his accusers are outright liars and fabricators, or the one in which there is truth, even a sliver, to the case. There is no way to reconcile the realities; no explanation, no justification, no admission or accountability or opportunity for acceptance or understanding that would somehow slot them together.

Ford would have us believe that the reporters seeing the tape of him smoking crack simply never happened, and citizens are reluctant to believe their elected officials are capable of untruths of such a grand scale. So the truth ends up suspended in the Ford Zone, where, without a smoking gun, or pipe, reality and unreality must ambiguously coexist.

Only when irrefutable proof has arisen has Ford admitted to his wrongdoing, like in 2010, when then-councillor Ford flatly denied old DUI and drug charges in the middle of the election campaign, until confronted with police reports. Or, back in 2006, when Ford lied about even having been at a hockey game, which he was actually ejected from after drunkenly disabusing to patrons. Only irrefutable evidence – including a business card he’d handed out – made him apologize.

Past misdeeds don’t make current allegations true. Similarly, Ford’s flat-out denials don’t condemn him. But the incidents keep mounting, and with them, the number of public figures who’ve staked their names and reputations on them.

If spectators from afar wonder why we have been tolerant in this city of Rob Ford, it might be because we elected him with his erratic record on full view. Some of his worst offenses came in the middle of the election campaign that he won. Toronto’s voters made that choice, and even Ford’s foes were inclined to defer to that choice.

But Ford can’t keep us suspended here any longer. The stakes are too high. There is real damage being done to the city’s international reputation, upon which business, recruitment, immigration and tourism depend. And if the things reporters say they’ve seen on the tape is real, the implications would be devastating. Never mind the casual bigotry and drug use. By associating himself with crack dealers, a mayor who cast himself as a surrogate football-coach father to black youth who, he claimed, would otherwise have been involved in drugs and gangs, would turn out to be a direct benefactor of the crippling problem he said he was shielding them from. Toronto has seen some cynicism in its days. This is toxic.

This story is still unproven. But the allegations against Rob Ford are serious and credible.

The mayor lacks the credibility to keep us suspended like this. Rob Ford needs to answer immediately, and restore some reality to a city that, since his election, has been floating steadily away from it.




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The Ford Zone

  1. Well said.

    • Way to perpetuate the same polarized mentality that has left the megacity with a succession of lousy mayors. In many cases that map makes small pluralities look big. Suburban-downtown differences are not as big as you’d think, and can be bridged if both sides calm down a little.

      e.g. Rob Ford got at least 25% of the vote in all but three wards, so surely you should blame *some* downtowners.

      e.g. Rob Ford only won ward 26 (Don Valley west) by .3% of the vote. If only a few more people biked to the polls…

      If you want to be rid of Rob Ford for good, you have to get rid of the root cause. So take a moment out of your day, and hug a suburbanite!

      • Come on, it’s hard not to laugh at how badly suburbanites want to shoot themselves in the foot over and over and over again.

    • All the proves to me is that the down town wards are stupid. Smitherman was a complete disaster when in the Provincial Government. He wasted billions of tax payer dollars. He would have driven the city into terminal debt if he had become Mayor. In my opinion Ford has done well, given the constant attacks from the left.

      • Perhaps you can find someone on the centre-right who isn’t a pathologically lying bigot with addiction issues to advance the agenda of fiscal responsibility?

        • A typical poisonous lefty reply. It’s people like you that drag politics into the ditch. You giftzwerg.

          • Gordy want a crac-ker?

        • Let’s see here – left wing politicians who lie and have problems – the Kennedys, Dominic Strauss Khan, Jack Layton and the rub and tug parlour, Michael Bryant, Dalton McGuinty, the Clintons, and Obama.

      • Nonsense. Smitherman was a pathetic candidate but the Mayor has proven himself equally useless in corralling votes and executing his vision. I’m for subways, but Ford thought he just had to insist and his platform would be executed. Maybe he thought he could text his demands in, on crack, while driving. Recall.

    • Oh btw… I live at Bloor and Bathurst.

      • So we’ve found one of the five people form the Annex who voted for Ford. Nice!

    • Mayor Ford got 43% support in the red wards.

    • Great map. Those red zones, for those unacquainted, make up the City of Toronto.

  2. and people voted for him because???

    • It’s a cycle in the Megacity. Elect a bad mayor. Get mad. Elect a bad mayor from the opposite end of the political spectrum. Get madder. Elect a worse mayor from the opposite end of the political spectrum.

      • Thats not a cycle, that’s a spiral.

    • Because Ford spoke to an anger in the outer boroughs of Toronto who felt alienated by the downtown core, whom they view as a moneyed elite.

      Because Toronto was amalgamated against peoples’ wishes in 1997, pitting three large car-dependent cities (Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke) against a smaller but comparatively wealthier and politically progressive urban core.

      Because voters were angry with previous mayor David Miller’s caving in to striking garbagemen, an event that left parks stuffed with garbage for weeks.

      Because voters couldn’t be bothered to research Ford’s history of racist remarks, boorish behaviour, and his overall “everyman” image which masks his wealthy, well-connected background.

      Because Ford promised to cut taxes, including the annual $60.00cdn tax on car-owners, and cut spending at City Hall because he insisted there was an orgy of union-led waste going on (“Stop The Gravy Train”).

      Because Ford’s main competitor, George Smitherman, put on a lousy, incoherent campaign whose most prominent platform angle was “I’m not Rob Ford”. Because a third candidate, Joe Pantalone, split the vote against Ford, even though he had no profile outside of his own downtown ward.

      Because voters on the left wing assumed that Torontonians were going to come to their senses at the last minute and not vote for Ford out of some vague notion of common sense.

      And because politics in Canada are finally swaying in the direction of American politics, where voters are polarised on hard right versus hard left, suburb versus city, rich versus poor; where money is the only value worth discussing, and entertainment value is more important than ethics or morality; where the short term splurge will always win out over long term-planning; where smashing up an old wreck of a political and social infrastructure like a child with an old toy seems so much more fun than trying to repair it.

      Ergo: Rob Ford.

      • Only one word for what you have written, excellent!!

      • This.

      • It’s pretty funny that people simultaneously believe that Miller “caved” to the garbagemen and are mad at him that they striked. The strike was a result of not caving.

  3. I’d laugh, but we in the “Peg have own slimeball! Mayor Sammy Katz!

  4. PR firms use behavioural science to win elections for their candidate. When they don’t have a natural winner, the campaign is used to distract minds and drown out voices, appealing to the baser instincts of the herd. This is not democracy. Free trade of ideas should prevail during elections. Private PR firms should not be allowed to set the conversations of elections.

  5. God help us all if there’s ever evidence that someone who looks just like him ever ends up in sex tape. The enormous butt crack would be a total gross out.

    • “crack” pun intended, i assume

  6. The author of this piece remarks that Ford has given up on governance. Not surprising given the daily attacks from the Leftist Star. So, have the allegations about Sara’s a$$ been “verified”. I notice that the contents of the video have not been “verified”. Trying to force Ford to resign, before definite irrefutable evidence of wrong doing, is tantamount to trying to circumvent the democratic choice of the electorate.

    • Ya but when the irrefutable evidence surfaces you will still think that it is okay because he says he is going to find the gravy and stop the gravy train.
      He could rob the city of millions and have them improve the road in front of his corporation and you would still cheer him on.
      He could sell your child drugs and you would still cheer him on because he is going to give you a tax cut.
      That’s just not smart.

      • That is not in fact true. I voted for him because I thought he would not pursue stupid left wing policies like Miller. And that Slitherman would ruin the city with his, well demonstrated in Provincial government, incompetence. If Rob is proven to have been smoking crack with those Somalian scum bags, I wouldn’t vote for him. Let me say that I would also not vote for that idiotic small-time crook Olivia. Karen Stintz, I could live with in that case. However, Toronto taxes would probably rise to the extent that I would move out of the city.

        • you voted for a crack head

          haha

          • piss off, moron.

          • This is not an argument. Go find an insult-tossing forum.

        • So his failures are the Star’s fault. OK then. No argument, no evidence, no critical thought, just spittle-flecked name-calling.

          Sue Ann? You’re busted.

  7. “There is real damage being done to the city’s international reputation, upon which business, recruitment, immigration and tourism depend.”

    This is the key line, and I’d dispute it. Toronto’s functioning and FDI attractiveness may be impacted by ambiguous regulations and poor street design decisions (anti-transit, anti-bike policies etc.) but I’d argue investors will ignore a buffoon of a boss.

    As Louis CK might say, of course he’s unfit to lead a kids’ soccer team, let alone govern our biggest city. But maybe.. that doesn’t matter. Maybe the important workings are actually handled by the army of bureaucrats, and the more important record to judge him by is simply his handling of the basics (which record is unchanged by the latest scandal).

    • Whenever the progressive set are not getting their own way, they haul out the line that we are an international embarrassment. Whether it’s talk of leaving the UN, supporting Israeli or not showing enough solidarity while on European junkets. progressives are snobs and they – really – don’t – like – to – not – be – one – of – the – cool – kids.

  8. The people of Toronto are grateful to see excessive staffing and spending reigned in and the gradual hold being gained by the move toward affordable subway development. The speculative media bullying is upsetting and worrisome for its impact on individuals and democracy.

    • In this case, the reporters weren’t speculating, but reporting what they’d seen and heard. The fact that the video’s owner won’t share is a shame, but it hardly makes the reporting speculative.

      • I’m fairly confident a court would find two solids grounds for calling it speculative. First, the headline said it was crack-cocaine, when there is no evidence for this. Second, it is widely believed that such a recording could be mocked up. Could the Star have actually believed that the tape was undoctored or not mocked up and that crack was actually present?
        I don’t think so. I also think the Star felt it had a legal right to bait the mayor in this way, which it has now backed up with articles asking the mayor to come clean to say whether it is ‘true or not.’

        And you can see the girl’s blotchy orange hand in the picture produced by the drug dealers, clearly painted poorly in digital!

      • I find it highly suspect that the owner of the video wants $200,000US and is Somali and that they were peddling it in New York not Toronto.

  9. I think it’s hilarious, the world’s most uptight community (downtown Toronto leftists) have a big dim buffoon foisted on them by their loathed working-class suburbs! However, he’s not dim enough to keep half-empty schools open, or hire armies of high-paid consultants, thus thinning their ranks! WINNING!

    • 43% of downtown voted for Mayor Ford. The suburbs vote was higher.

      • The actual number was in the high 20s to low 30s depending on your definition of “downtown”. It was 22-24% in the true core.

        Smitherman got in the 30s in most of the burbs, the only place he truly bombed was (surprise!) central Etobicoke

        • Sure, in 6 out of 44 wards, the mayor was more than 20 points behind, but he won the vast majority of wards, including some centre ones such as the Beaches, Willowdale, etc., and received over 43% support in the central Toronto area. I don’t know if it will fit, but here is the list.

          Ward 1, Etobicoke North

          Rob Ford: 9,435 (69.1%)

          George Smitherman: 2,131 (15.6%)

          Joe Pantalone: 742 (5.4%)

          Total votes: 13,652

          Ward 2, Etobicoke North

          Rob Ford: 14,325 (79.6%)

          George Smitherman: 2,098 (11.7%)

          Joe Pantalone: 864 (4.8%)

          Total votes: 17,996

          Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre

          Rob Ford: 12,913 (65.2%)

          George Smitherman: 4,704 (23.7%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,563 (7.9%)

          Total votes: 19,812

          Ward 4, Etobicoke Centre

          Rob Ford: 14,573 (68.1%)

          George Smitherman: 4,728 (22.1%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,457 (6.8%)

          Total votes: 21,415

          Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore

          Rob Ford: 13,789 (56.4%)

          George Smitherman: 7,673 (31.4%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,170 (8.9%)

          Total votes: 24,452

          Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore

          Rob Ford: 11,915 (57.3%)

          George Smitherman: 5,894 (28.4%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,110 (10.2%)

          Total votes: 20,785

          Ward 7, York West

          Rob Ford: 7,041 (57.7%)

          George Smitherman: 2,233 (18.3%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,640 (13.4%)

          Total votes: 12,206

          Ward 8, York West

          Rob Ford: 5,303 (47.6%)

          George Smitherman: 2,509 (22.5%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,439 (12.9%)

          Total votes: 11,149

          Ward 9, York Centre

          Rob Ford: 7,045 (57.1%)

          George Smitherman: 2,155 (17.5%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,948 (15.8%)

          Total votes: 1,2343

          Ward 10, York Centre

          Rob Ford: 9,772 (57.7%)

          George Smitherman: 4,458 (26.3%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,494 (8.8%)

          Total votes: 16,944

          Ward 11, York South-Weston

          Rob Ford: 9,619 (59.7%)

          George Smitherman: 3,511 (21.8%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,920 (11.9%)

          Total votes: 16,112

          Ward 12, York South-Weston

          Rob Ford: 7,536 (55.7%)

          George Smitherman: 2,747 (20.3%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,979 (14.6%)

          Total votes: 13,538

          Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park

          Rob Ford: 7,679 (34.7%)

          George Smitherman: 10,232 (46.2%)

          Joe Pantalone: 3,599 (16.3%)

          Total votes: 22,127

          Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park

          Rob Ford: 4,788 (27.6%)

          George Smitherman: 7,949 (45.9%)

          Joe Pantalone: 3,882 (22.4%)

          Total votes: 17,336

          Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence

          Rob Ford: 8,928 (52.8%)

          George Smitherman: 4,282 (25.3%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,388 (14.1%)

          Total votes: 16,897

          Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence

          Rob Ford: 8,074 (40.8%)

          George Smitherman: 9,505 (50.0%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,772 (8.9%)

          Total votes: 19,810

          Ward 17, Davenport

          Rob Ford: 6,006 (41.7%)

          George Smitherman: 4,407 (30.6%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,975 (20.7%)

          Total votes: 14,399

          Ward 18, Davenport

          Rob Ford: 3,973 (27.5%)

          George Smitherman: 5,697 (39.5%)

          Joe Pantalone: 3,756 (26.0%)

          Total votes: 14,422

          Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina

          Rob Ford: 4,630 (22.2%)

          George Smitherman: 9,732 (46.6%)

          Joe Pantalone: 5,801 (27.8%)

          Total votes: 20,882

          Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina

          Rob Ford: 5,476 (23.2%)

          George Smitherman: 13,151 (55.7%)

          Joe Pantalone: 4,129 (17.5%)

          Total votes: 23,614

          Ward 21, St. Paul’s

          Rob Ford: 5,818 (32.2%)

          George Smitherman: 8,979 (49.7%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,602 (14.4%)

          Total votes: 18,056

          Ward 22, St. Paul’s

          Rob Ford: 7,903 (32.3%)

          George Smitherman: 13,411 (54.8%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,443 (10.0%)

          Total votes: 24,454

          Ward 23, Willowdale

          Rob Ford: 10,959 (49.2%)

          George Smitherman: 8,055 (36.2%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,181 (9.8%)

          Total votes: 22,264

          Ward 24, Willowdale

          Rob Ford: 9,670 (52.6%)

          George Smitherman: 6,181 (33.6%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,565 (8.5%)

          Total votes: 18,391

          Ward 25, Don Valley West

          Rob Ford: 9,865 (46.4%)

          George Smitherman: 9,138 (43.0%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,639 (7.7%)

          Total votes: 21,241

          Ward 26, Don Valley West

          Rob Ford: 8,322 (41.8%)

          George Smitherman: 8,272 (41.5%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,647 (8.3%)

          Total votes: 19,915

          Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale

          Rob Ford: 7,068 (25.1%)

          George Smitherman: 17,335 (61.5%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,909 (10.3%)

          Total votes: 28,176

          Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale

          Rob Ford: 4,937 (23.7%)

          George Smitherman: 12,513 (60.1%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,414 (11.6%)

          Total votes: 20,819

          Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth

          Rob Ford: 6,493 (36.3%)

          George Smitherman: 7,658 (42.8%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,863 (16.0%)

          Total votes: 17,899

          Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth

          Rob Ford: 5,106 (25.8%)

          George Smitherman: 10,492 (53.0%)

          Joe Pantalone: 3,341 (16.9%)

          Total votes: 19,797

          Ward 31, Beaches-East York

          Rob Ford: 7,942 (43.7%)

          George Smitherman: 6,459 (35.6%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,889 (15.9%)

          Total votes: 18,165

          Ward 32, Beaches-East York

          Rob Ford: 7,639 (32.4%)

          George Smitherman: 11,812 (50.1%)

          Joe Pantalone: 3,440 (14.6%)

          Total votes: 23,576

          Ward 33, Don Valley East

          Rob Ford: 7,525 (52.3%)

          George Smitherman: 4,465 (31.0%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,435 (10.0%)

          Total votes: 14,388

          Ward 34, Don Valley East

          Rob Ford: 8,581 (51.6%)

          George Smitherman: 5,403 (32.5%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,669 (10.0%)

          Total votes: 16,626

          Ward 35, Scarborough Southwest

          Rob Ford: 9,390 (55.8%)

          George Smitherman: 4,288 (25.5%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,880 (11.2%)

          Total votes: 16,835

          Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest

          Rob Ford: 9,606 (52.8%)

          George Smitherman: 5,682 (31.2%)

          Joe Pantalone: 2,096 (11.5%)

          Total votes: 18,201

          Ward 37, Scarborough Centre

          Rob Ford: 10,809 (58.3%)

          George Smitherman: 4,892 (26.4%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,695 (9.1%)

          Total votes: 18,548

          Ward 38, Scarborough Centre

          Rob Ford: 10,509 (57.4%)

          George Smitherman: 5,107 (27.9%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,427 (7.8%)

          Total votes: 18,297

          Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt

          Rob Ford: 9,519 (63.7%)

          George Smitherman: 3,438 (23.0%)

          Joe Pantalone: 853 (5.7%)

          Total votes: 14,954

          Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt

          Rob Ford: 10,094 (59.1%)

          George Smitherman: 4,208 (24.6%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,410 (8.3%)

          Total votes: 17,086

          Ward 41, Scarborough-Rouge River

          Rob Ford: 11,382 (62.0%)

          George Smitherman: 4,638 (25.3%)

          Joe Pantalone: 949 (5.2%)

          Total votes: 18,363

          Ward 42, Scarborough-Rouge River

          Rob Ford: 10,071 (49.2%)

          George Smitherman: 6,798 (33.2%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,259 (6.1%)

          Total votes: 20,474

          Ward 43, Scarborough East

          Rob Ford: 8,818 (55.7%)

          George Smitherman: 4,557 (33.2%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,332 (6.1%)

          Total votes: 15,818

          Ward 44, Scarborough East

          Rob Ford: 12,660 (58.1%)

          George Smitherman: 6,262 (28.8%)

          Joe Pantalone: 1,916 (8.8%)

          Total votes: 21,780

  10. Dodgy video appears to Nick Denton, the guy who owns Gawker – a guy in New York who has never met Rob Ford, and has no interest in Toronto. Denton mysteriously knows to show this video to some Star reporters on his cell phone. He can’t buy the video because the guys who own it want $200,000US. Denton sets up a website to get people “who are interested” to donate the money to buy the video to make Rob Ford “do the right thing”. This has fraud written all over it right down to the mysterious Somali owners of the video. Even Rabble is becoming annoyed with the Star’s treatment of Rob Ford and that says something. http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/djclimenhaga/2013/05/schadenfreude-evidence-and-politics-half-hearted-defence-rob-for Well, other than Michael Laxer who writes another op-ed piece claiming Gawker is “an online American publication” giving it a aura of respectability when, in fact, it is a gossip blog.

  11. Would be interested to know if the video was taken the night Sarah Thomson was groped? Her description of Ford’s behavior matches what the reporters described of the video.

  12. Ivor, another excellent, thoughtful analysis by you.

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