Toronto Mayor Rob Ford: The People have spoken! But never mind!

You need not live in Toronto to have an opinion on its mayor

by Paul Wells

What the mayor of Toronto does and how the city’s voters respond is none of my business, because I live in Ottawa, but I can’t help following Rob Ford’s escapades. And I was struck by the structure of this weekend Globe feature by the paper’s excellent Ian Brown.

Ford has lately been taking a hell of a lot of time off work, and allocating fairly substantial City of Toronto resources, including the time of other staffers, to help coach a high-school football team. A lot of people wish he wouldn’t. A lot of people think this is an inappropriate allocation of taxpayer resources. And by “a lot of people,” I mean “most of the Torontonians I follow on Twitter.”

But Brown decided to take it to the street, and the results (with emphasis added by me so you’ll see what caught my attention) are intriguing:

Take a lunch-hour walk in front of Toronto’s City Hall and ask people what they think of Mayor Rob Ford’s decision this week to exit a city council executive committee meeting five-and-a-half hours early to attend a scrimmage of the high-school football team he coaches.

Everyone says the same thing. They say they don’t mind if the coach – or the mayor, if you prefer – slips off during office hours to volunteer for his players. They say everyone takes unscheduled time off work anyway, and that the mayor will do what everyone does and make up the time later.

“I think most people put in more time than they’re paid for,” one woman tells me. And Mr. Ford is one of us.

Whoopsie.

“It’s the standard Ford-defence theory,” Brown continues, waving his hands frantically. “Mr. Ford can do anything he likes… because Ford’s Army, the base of suburban-commuter conservatives who handed him the chain of office in 2010, will guarantee his re-election as the bully with a heart of gold who stands up to effete, bike-riding elitists.

“But this week may have seen the straw that broke even his supporters’ camel-like backs…”

Having thus wrapped “everyone” he could find at Nathan Phillips Square into one bundle of “suburban-commuter conservatives” with odd backs who don’t like bicycles, Brown sets them aside and they do not further trouble his narrative.

Look, I don’t think a mayor should be skipping council meetings to coach football, and I certainly don’t think he should be ordering City Hall staffers to come along with him on taxpayer time. I think Ford has been a highly problematic mayor. But as I said, I don’t live there, and the headline on Ian’s piece is, “Have Torontonians had enough of Rob Ford?”, and based on his own reporting the answer seems to be “Nope.” I think that fact demands more attention and reflection from reporters.




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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford: The People have spoken! But never mind!

  1. What a great job Rob Ford has. One where you actually don’t have to carry out the duties associated with the job but can take a break and do the thing that interests you more instead. And voters like this scheme? Icing on the cake!

  2. Ian Brown is about as Deep Annex as one can get. Rob Ford should pin that on his wall.

  3. Cronyism and conflicts of interest haven’t negatively affected Sam Katz’s electability in Winnipeg, why would they for Rob Ford in Toronto?

  4. yeah but the questions were asked at Nathan Phillips sqaure. The only people there were Ford employees taking the afternoon off.

  5. Skipping out on mayoral work to coach a football team is bad enough, but even with the rationale put forward by the lady above (which is by no means crazy) using City-owned cars, City-owned cellphones and assistants paid for by the City for this football work can’t be considered kosher by ANYONE, can it? Also, while it’s by no means been proven, it’s been suggested that City staff in the mayor’s office felt pressured to “volunteer” their personal time to help with the Mayor’s football team. “You got fired if you didn’t do it” said one anonymous source in the Mayor’s office (though it’s important to note that no one’s been fired). Surely an employer pressuring the staff who report to them to “volunteer” their personal time to the employer’s pet project, no matter how worthy, is not acceptable (if that is indeed what’s been going on, and as I said, that’s only an allegation at this point).

    Also, Mayor Ford said EXPLICITLY during the election campaign that if elected he would quit his coaching duties at Don Bosco to focus on his job as Mayor. Then he changed his mind after the election. Surely that’s got to mean something, even to a staunch Ford supporter.

    I’m also not thrilled with the hypocrisy of a Mayor constantly deriding so-called “Hug-a-Thug” programs while simultaneously stressing the importance of his football work in keeping disadvantaged youth off the streets.

    • I hate to sound like an elite looking down on the journeymen, but I find it very hard to believe anyone apprised of the situation could feel any different than this post. I also feel there is a growing tendency (esp. visible on the right but possibly existing elsewhere) to foster public ignorance while claiming public knowledge. It feels like the second pro-rogue and the contempt of parliament all over again.

  6. The city is divided over Ford (as it was when he was elected). I’m over-generalizing, but the breakdown of his support by wards showed that he was largely favoured in the suburban centres and picked up little in the concentrated downtown. Moreover, his approach has been consistent. He won’t change because that’s who he is and if people in Toronto who voted for him are surprised, they shouldn’t be as he has behaved in the same way over his life as a counsellor. He is arrogant and out of touch and his inability to understand the obvious conflicts between his stand on eliminating abuse of tax payers money and his time allocating some of that money on his own personal interests is plain to see. I didn’t vote for him but I understand why a bunch of people did. However, he has broken that contract by acting in exactly the way he says he deplores. He mocks youth outreach as “hug a thug” and consistently votes against allotting any funding to them. Yet he “saves the lives of many youth” through his football program and has no problem in soliciting funding from his various contacts as Mayor. He has no conflict of interest because he doesn’t understand the principle and because he doesn’t think it is important.

    Amalgamated Toronto has had a recent succession of poor Mayors from Mr Nooobody!!! Mel Lastman to David Miller to our present incumbent. We get what we deserve as a world crass city.

  7. Take it from me Rob Ford is a Doofus. A rich doofus but a doofus nonetheless. I base this on the following: while he was testifying 2 weeks ago at his conflict of interest charges trial he admitted he didn’t know the procedures and had NEVER read the handbook of rules and regulations which required him as a councillor to read. He has been a councillor for 10 years and the mayor for 2 years. His reply was that he didn’t think it necessary

    • handbooks are for university educated elites, commie!

  8. “Nope”…

    i guess the people who voted for Ford REALLY don’t like so-called liberal elites A LOT! I don’t think you can assume many of those people aren’t at the very least disappointed in Ford’s record[ the list of lies alone is astonishing and even funny in a sorta twisted way...if you don't live in Toronto.] But it does say a lot of folks are enjoying seeing the liberal elites regularly getting poked in the eye by a buffoon . This time the buffoon is one of theirs. Something similar occurred with Ralph while he was premier in AB. It doesn’t mean people approve of the behaviours, it does mean they dislike supercilious and often hypocritical self appointed elites even less – even if they know they are right most of the time. Funny to see it going on in a really big city. It happens in small towns all the time.

    • But if these “elites” are right most of the time, and putting up with Ford-like behaviour is better than having such an “elite” doing the same job, what does it say about “folks who like to see liberals getting poked in the eye”?

      • I didn’t say it was rational.

        • Fair enough. Now go back to your latte, city-slicker!

          • lol…you now how difficult it is to get a good latte in my town? Nearest really good Italian coffee spot is 1000kms south.

      • Well, that’s assuming that the elites are right most of the time, or whether they simply have a disproportionate amount of power.

        • I think we are getting a good look at the alternative right about now. How’d you like it so far?

          • Eh, I can remember many, many debacles and corruption when the Toronto city council was a magic circle of lefties too.

  9. Rob Ford is proof amalgamation has failed. He is elected by people who don’t like the city of Toronto because they find it scary and dirty and driving to Jays games are a total pain because traffic sucks and that is why they live in Scarborough and North York. Toronto should de-amalgamate and people in Scarborough can vote for politicians who share their suburban concerns (and maybe raise their own money for a subway rather than piggbacking on the City of Toronto).

  10. That is why I no longer read the Globe and Mail. They don’t tell the news, they tell their narratives.

    To be fair, they’re far from the only outlet to do this these days. It seems to be a mainstay of many outlets today, that customers need to be told how to interpret the facts. Some go so far as to tell us what they think we should know, their narrative, and then select or twist the facts to support said narrative.

  11. Rob Ford is such a bad mayor that the less time he spends in his role as mayor, the better. Everybody is hung up on the possibility of booting Ford on ethics charges (Ford did wrong, but do you really want every subsequent mayor to be bootable on the basis of minor f-ups). They are missing the far easier way to get rid of the guy:
    Let Ford coach football, go to the cottage, talk to constituents on his cellphone and do his radio show all day. Give him a voucher for one embarassing public comment per week. Let much smarter people actually run the city. Is it wasteful to commit city resources to a football game? Sure. But I still believe it is a net gain over the prospect of Rob Ford making decisions that could impact Torontonians.
    Heck, City Council posted a 115 million dollar surplus this year. Maybe non-governance and political gridlock isn’t suck a bad thing in a city with many of the worst politicians known to man.

    • I don’t know much about Rob Ford, but there’s wisdom in the notion that government actually improves when the idiots we elect don’t meddle with it.

  12. Rob Ford was running against George Smitherman, right.

    Wasn’t George Smitherman the Minister of Health who was responsible for setting up McGuinty’s eHealth initiative, which resulted in a billion dollar scandal, and ORNGE, which resulted in a second billion dollar scandal?

    With Ford, thousands of dollars get wasted. With Smitherman, billions go missing.

    Just saying.

    • Good point. Throwing a billion dollars out the window results in no repercussions for Smitherman. Spending thousands on a football charity results in Ford on trial to be thrown out.
      Here we have a bunch of commenters complaining about Ford and I’ll bet some of them voted for Smitherman.

      • Well not NO repercussions for Smitherman. He’s not sitting in the mayor’s office right now. Then again, I’d give you two to one odds that neither is Ford, lol.

  13. Given that the province annually bails out Toronto from its budget fiascos, every Ontarian is entitled to comment on Toronto government.

    • And where does the province get most of its money from? Toronto!

  14. I’m not sure what to make of Rob Ford and his coaching, but I think Wells raises an excellent point: if Ford is as abysmally awful as most reporters (in my experience) seem to think he is, what is it that the Toronto voting public sees in him? (at least, I think Wells raises this point. Perhaps I’m mischaracterizing his point. Anyway, I only write on behalf of the fool, so you have to make do with what you have.)

    Journalists would do well to consider this question and figure out why their views are by and large not reflected by the mainstream Toronto voter. And in advance response to Emily, no, it’s not because Toronto is populated exclusively by redneck racists.

    • he got in on a platform of “cut the fat”, which many voters seemed to like, even if an actuarial report later showed there really wasn’t any fat to cut.

      The right wing are very very good at telling lies to people (not necessarily dumb people, but they’re good at finding people with thier preconceived notions, plus as a bonus they get the ones who pay less attention by keeping their message simpler).

      But you knew that.

      • If by “finding people with thier (sic) preconceived notions” you mean “there are a lot of people who agree with the Right” then I agree, but it doesn’t answer the question.

        I question your assertion that the Right gets “the ones who pay less attention”. Any evidence for that?

        And then of course there is the slur about us Righties being liars, which I’m sure any fair-minded reader can see for what it is.

        • Now granted it’s an ancient story that “polticians lie”, we have the warnings of people like Orwell, and I am not old enough to remember politics as anything but in the internet age. But I keep thinking “it couldn’t be this blatant, this dishonest as we’ve seen under people like Harper, could it?” We won’t know for sure until a new, non CPC party becomes the government.

          But god help us if Stephen Harper and Rob Ford are the norm not the outliers.

        • Most people don’t pay attention (at least not nearly as much as we do), so the winner is usually the one who gets those who pay less attention. The flip side is losers console themselves with the knowledge that the other side only won because idiots voted for them. Because Ford/Harper are our most recent winners, it’s the left saying this right now. Stephen Harper’s famous firewall letter is an example of this going the other way (that the Liberals only won in 2000 because they played to anti-Alberta prejudice).

    • I think Wells’ point, or part of his point (at least, what I think it is), is that the media will spin a narrative despite the facts. The article states that no one really cares, and yet the headline screams doom.
      However, to be fair (and I’m sure Paul Wells knows this), if I’m not mistaken, it’s not the journalist that chooses the title/headline of his article. It’s usually done by the editor or other employee. So the disconnect between article and headline could just be some incompetent/mischievous/intentionally-deceiving (or all three) employee at the Globe.
      Edit: Then again, re-reading the article, even the author contradicts himself in the article, so it’s not just a matter of a contradictory headline. It’s the article itself that’s contradictory.

    • I think part of the point here is that every day Ford provides ammunition to his opponents is a day they should feel even more humble about losing to him.

  15. Ian Brown may not be perfect, but you can’t expect a guy to be a world famous musician whose band’s debut album NME ranked at #2 of the century behind Sgt. Peppers AND a stellar toronto journalist! :)

  16. Rob Ford is the real deal. That s difficult to handle for those who live in a superficial world

  17. Be great if folks would apply the same measure that they apply to the mayor, that it’s OK to skip out to coach football, as they do to the teachers, whom they vilify for not working extra volunteer hours for nothing.

  18. Agreed. But that reporters need better and more thoughtful reflection is hardly new, or confined to the Globe & Mail. For example, despite the fact that both the Libs and Cons accuse each other regularly of court control, not one of our cracker jack politio word spewers have ever deigned to notice that the judge in Rob Ford’s case, Justice Charles T. Hackland has done an awful lot of favours for the Cons (I count four since 2008) nor asked what the Regional Senior Justice of the East Region based in Ottawa is doing presiding over a case brought in Toronto by a Toronto resident against the Toronto mayor with Toronto lawyers all around. Whaassa matter? Was Justice Brown busy or after the Occupy decision, did they think it would be too obvious?

    Expect Hackland to exonerate Ford just as he has protected Harper in the past. And though this is all so illegal and Hackland should go to jail, expect our legal eagles amongst our reporters not to notice, ’cause that’s what they’re paid to do …

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