Today marks the first time I am legally able, as a journalist, to omit the word “allegedly” from the following sentence. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoked crack cocaine. Ford made this bombshell admission before city hall reporters Tuesday, marking another first: the first time the mayor gave reporters the answer they were looking for. And what an answer it was. Not only did Ford admit to having smoked crack cocaine. He revealed that he did so “approximately one year ago” in what was most likely one of his “drunken stupors.” This means that Ford has not only used crack; he is also apparently prone to binge drinking, and possibly blackouts. After all, he can’t recall when exactly he smoked crack or with whom he smoked it. An admission like that, you might say, opens the door to the possibility that he could be smoking crack right now. Yet he remains the mayor of Toronto.
Hours after Ford’s admission, he made another statement—this one possibly even more surprising than the last. In truly Biblical fashion (“And again, Pharaoh hardened his heart”), Ford announced that he would not step aside. He apologized profusely for his “mistakes” and vowed to continue serving the taxpayers and the good people of Toronto. “I have nothing left to hide,” he said (apparently forgetting for a moment that he is also prone to bouts of intoxication he cannot remember). “On Oct. 27 of 2014,” he said defiantly, “I want the people of this great city to decide whether they want Rob Ford to be their mayor.” Torontonians expected the mayor’s resignation, or at the very least, a leave of absence. Instead, they got a stump speech.
Ford may have refused to step down, but it’s not exactly business as usual at city hall. Toronto city councillors are already tabling motions asking for official limitations to the mayor’s powers. One of those councillors is Denzil Minnan-Wong, a former Ford ally who has accused the mayor of turning Toronto into Gotham City. The only discernable difference between the two? Gotham City has a saviour. Toronto doesn’t.
The day Rob Ford admitted to smoking crack, in turn hinting at the fact that he lied when asked about smoking crack—allegedly with drug dealers and gang bangers tied up in a massive police investigation—senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau were suspended without pay for filing improper expense claims. Say what you will about the Senate and its culture of entitlement, but at least it has the minimal mechanisms in place required to punish its own. I’m beginning to think that the only way in which Ford will be ousted from office—having evaded every other avenue already in existence—is if he smokes crack on camera, during a council meeting at City Hall. Even his base, having been majorly deceived, remains interminably loyal—their only reward in all of this, a very thin burger patty at the end of a three-hour Ford Fest lineup.
A Forum Research poll conducted this week indicates that 43 per cent of Toronto adults still approve of Ford—an almost identical number to a poll taken last week in the aftermath of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair’s revelation that the crack tape exists as reported. (And we know that the mayor’s approval ratings increased in May when the scandal was first reported by the Toronto Star and Gawker.) Ford is a train wreck of his own making, yes. But he’s also a survivor.
I used to think that Torontonians scandalized by the crack scandal, and worse, “embarrassed” by it, were more than a little precious. Besides, Toronto, ever-reaching for the distinction of “world-class city” could use a little world-class perspective (New York and Paris don’t self-destruct every time a politician makes international headlines). But I’m beginning to share that embarrassment. I’m embarrassed to live in Toronto right now not because our mayor—the same mayor who in 2005 suggested drug addicts “dry out” in prison—allegedly hangs out with gang bangers and admits to smoking crack, but because he gets away with it. This story, once absurd and wickedly funny, is now just plain chilling.
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