Rob Ford slipped into a committee room here at city hall yesterday, escaping a blast of camera shutters and one reporter yelling “WILL YOU ADDRESS THE LATEST –” before the door shut behind him.
Inside the hushed confines of Committee Room 1, with its concentric horseshoes of public servants, politicians and gadflies, you could almost pretend everything is fine. Ford and his inner circle was considering a typical pile of doomed endeavours: de-funding the Pride parade on account of anti-Israeli marchers, getting rid of half of city council and debating whether drivers should be required to give cyclists a metre’s leeway when passing.
Life made a passable impression of going on. It was Ford’s 44th birthday, and at lunch he’d served cake to reporters, and even apologized for the moment of indiscretion on his radio show when he called them a bunch of maggots. Suburban councillors spoke at length about how little they wanted to change lanes for cyclists. De-funding the parade turned out to be futile because the city never specifically pays for the parade in the first place. A report on shrinking council was requested, so as later to be ignored. It was one of Ford’s campaign planks. It may be the last he addresses.
Everything is not fine. The scope and implications of this scandal grows every day.
Related post: Timeline — The Rob Ford crack controversy
Here’s where it stands now: The mayor has been pictured posing with three young men. One of them appears to be Anthony Smith, who was killed at the end of March in an execution-style shooting downtown. A second young man in the same photo has been shot as well. Meanwhile, a video purporting to show the mayor smoking crack, which the mayor strenuously denies exists, is the subject of a police investigation. The mayor’s staff are reported to have worried that the drug dealers who were shopping the video around may have killed someone to get it. A link between Smith and the video is the subject of much speculation now, to say nothing of the link between Smith and the mayor.
Then there is the old Ford family friend named David Price, hired by the mayor’s office in early April, about a week after the Smith shooting. The Globe, in an investigation that charges Doug Ford with having dealt hashish as a teenager, tagged Price as a former participant in Doug’s enterprise. (Doug Ford has strongly denied ever dealing drugs.) Price is reported to have had information on the nature or whereabout of the video, which he passed along to then-chief-of-staff Mark Towhey, who, aghast, called the police. Asked to explain Price’s hire, Doug simply remarked “you can’t teach loyalty.”
So Rob Ford now finds himself sharing headlines with homicide detectives and killings. A young man is dead. Others have been shot. A video of the mayor smoking crack might still be out there, now with a $200,000 bounty on its head, and potentially in the hands of people who aren’t just drug dealers, but murderers as well. (This may give Crackstarter boosters some extra pause.) Just to underline that earlier point: Everything is really, definitively not fine.
Yesterday, Ford could only keep the outside world out for so long. His executive committee meeting went almost until 6 p.m. When the meeting wrapped up, Ford walked out the side doors of the room, where he came face to face with a gaggle of reporters at the exit. There was a brief moment of confusion as Ford paused at the threshold, as if about to speak.
“Aw, I left my phone in there,” he groaned, patting down his suit pockets.
The mayor and handlers ducked into a private back-passage around to his glass-walled office suite, where the press gallery was waiting for him to speak. He was scheduled to issue a condemnation of the new taxes that the province wants to levy to pay for transit expansion, but none of the press wanted to talk about revenue tools.
“It’s no secret that I’ve been fighting for new subway lines for Toronto since Day 1 …” said Ford, reading his statement. “What I do not support is the province’s plan to slap new taxes on the back of hard-working families in this great province.”
It’s murder and revenue tools this week; death and taxes. With every subsequent revelation, you can hear the gasps of “surely this will shake Ford Nation’s support.” Yet a tracking poll over the weekend showed Ford’s lousy numbers are at least holding steady. Rob Ford was sent to City Hall to hold the line on taxes and disrupt the scene, and that’s what he did. The collateral damage, which mounts day by day, is incidental. The fact that business as usual looks like it might never return doesn’t faze the faithful. The entire premise of Rob Ford was to rail against the inevitable.
Reporters let the mayor finish with tax speech before they lit into him again.
“Everyone in the country is talking about these new allegations in the Star and the Globe this morning,” came the first question. “Do you have any thing to say about that?”
“I’ve addressed those concerns. If you have any questions about what I just talked about I’d be more than happy to answer questions,” said Ford.
“How do you know Anthony Smith?” yelled someone else, the only audible question in the cacophony that erupted. Ford peered around, looking momentarily hopeful that someone might want to ask about taxes.
“Anyways, thank you very much,” said Ford, and was gone.