Why Rob Ford is the year’s top newsmaker

Scandalized, embarrassed and mocked worldwide, yet still unbowed. Who else but Rob Ford?

by Charlie Gillis

Chris Young/CP

There’s never been anyone like him. The drugs, the booze and the shambolic behaviour might summon past scandals to mind, but what politician has ever shown this tolerance for ostracism? In the last seven months, Rob Ford has morphed from embattled mayor to celebrity disaster scene—his florid visage a staple of late-night comedy shows, where funnymen savour dissonant phrases like “Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor.” George W. Bush is the last guy who should derive schadenfreude from the travails of a serial blunderer. But when Ford’s name came up during Bush’s recent appearance on the Tonight Show, the 43rd U.S. president felt free to throw back his head and laugh.

Friends, foes and federal cabinet ministers have tried in vain to get Ford to step aside. Council colleagues have urged him to seek help. Matt Lauer, host of NBC’s Today, scolded the mayor before the program’s five million-strong audience for putting his appetites before the interests of his city—a dressing down that Ford should have faced months ago from Canadian interviewers. “You have brought disgrace to this office,” charged Lauer, “and you know that’s true.”

Yet here Ford stands. “If you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait,” he told incredulous councillors on Nov. 18, referring to Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion. “Mark my words, friends, this is going to be outright war in the next election and I’m going to do everything in my power, everything in my power to beat you guys.” Moments later, city council voted to commandeer Ford’s staff and reallocate most of his office budget. The mayor responded with dark warnings of civil suits against individual councillors, and claimed to hold damaging information about his colleagues’ misbehaviour which, if revealed, will thicken the stink cloud hovering over Canada’s largest city.

It’s hard to discern any lessons in this fiasco. The story moves too quickly; the mayor’s future remains too uncertain. But we won’t soon forget the Year of Ford. Back in May, when reports of a video showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine first surfaced, an obvious course of action lay before him: Take a leave of absence, seek substance-abuse counselling, return to office a few weeks later. Instead, Ford chose the route that would inflict maximum damage to the city, and to himself. “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine,” he blustered at a May 24 news conference. And about the video? “I cannot comment on a video that I have not seen or does not exist.”

OTHER 2013 NEWSMAKERS

Maybe these formulations sounded convincing when he was rehearsing them in front of his brother Doug, a fellow council member. But for anyone equipped with critical thinking skills, they raised screaming questions that Ford resolutely refused to answer. Had he smoked crack in the past? How much? When? How often? What other drugs had he used? What made him say the video doesn’t exist? What about that photo taken the night that he’d reportedly been filmed puffing on a glass pipe? How did he know the men with whom he’d posed—one of whom had been killed shortly afterward in a gang-style shooting?

Ford feigned outrage at such questions, yet even then, according to his former staff members, he was telling close advisers that he knew where the video was. It’s astonishing to think the mayor couldn’t see the coming chain of events: the police investigation into the mayor’s reported links to the drug underworld; the exposure of his friendship with “driver” Alexander “Sandro” Lisi, a suspected drug dealer who has since been charged with extortion in connection with an apparent attempt to locate the video. And, of course, the bombshell revelation on Halloween morning: that police computer whizzes had recovered a deleted copy of the offending video from a laptop computer seized in a related investigation. Its content was, said Chief Bill Blair, “consistent” with that described on Gawker and in the Toronto Star, whose reporters who had seen it.

With that, Ford spun out of control, lurching from mawkish self-pity to jaw-dropping boorishness. First came an impromptu admission before reporters gathered outside his office that, yes, he had indeed smoked crack, but they’d never asked if he had done so in the past (they had, many times). Within 24 hours, a video went viral of him in what appeared to be a substance-fuelled rant, threatening to kill an unidentified man, prompting an admission from Ford that he’d been “very, very inebriated” when it was taken.

He made a po-faced apology, yet followed it up with a disgraceful tirade to reporters about a former aide who told police the mayor offered to perform oral sex on her. “It says I wanted to eat her p—y,” Ford blurted. “I would never do that. I’m happily married. I’ve got more than enough to eat at home.”

Here, then, is a man who has pulled off the unlikely feat of inducing sympathy for Toronto from the outside world. Canadians who had fine-tuned their Toronto-bashing skills now shake their heads in pity, while U.S., British and Australian media ask earnestly whether Ford has forever altered the city’s image as a model of well-ordered cosmopolitanism. The obvious answer—no, he’s a blip—raises a greater conundrum: Why do so many Torontonians indulge him? Who are the 30 per cent-plus telling pollsters they approve of Ford, fuelling his determination to win the city’s next mayoral election?

Smart minds have scratched the surface of that question, and their findings are disturbing. Ford’s base of support lies in an increasingly downtrodden circle of suburbs, experts say, where even if residents do not approve of his actions, the more he outrages the wealthier denizens of downtown elites, the better they like it, explains Zack Taylor, a University of Toronto professor who has studied Ford’s vote.

Sadly, neither the mayor nor city council has much chance of lifting these voters’ real burdens, like unstable employment and low wages due to a vanishing manufacturing sector. In Ford, these voters have found an outlet for frustration: a politician entirely without precedent. His detractors can only hope he’s one of a kind.




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Why Rob Ford is the year’s top newsmaker

  1. Joke of the year: an ” overweight crak addict,” ha ha ha, ……. Hahaha,
    Merry Christmas

    • Yes, he is.

      • But he hasn’t stolen from the taxpayers. Think about why media wants him so bad?

        Those other mayors and city employees on the take for inflated contracts run free. Maybe Ford is fat addict, but he hasn’t stolen from you. Back room loves how easy it is to manipulate media and the people to take the focus off of real crimes against the people.

        • Really so no problem at all with a leader who puts himself in a position to be blackmailed constantly and shows up for work drunk?

          • He didn’t succumb to the blackmail says it all. Most politicians would have, and why we keep such donkey programs like defective F35s, $19M dune buggies and pad up union waste.

            But there in is the real problem, when push comes to shove Ford isn’t corrupt enough for the back room support he needs.

            As they want the back room insiders in control. I gave up on professional politicians long ago as they behave as to lie, deceive to get more of our money for waste, corruption and buddy deals.

            I only vote for commoners, as they might manage government and not be a cheap dime a dozen politician managing us for money.

        • Ask yourself this: Would a publicly traded company EVER put up with a CEO like Rob Ford? Stocks would plummet.

          So why would ANYONE – regardless of political stripe – want this guy as mayor? What possible benefits can he offer that outweigh his extensive liabilities?

          There are others with at least as many positive skills to offer and none of the negatives. Seek out one of them to vote for.

          • What possible benefits can he offer that outweigh his extensive liabilities?

            He’s saving the city hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

            What you guys fail to understand is that’s what it really boils down to. And the next election will also. Would you prefer a bozo who’s fiscally responsible running the city, or some pretty face who’ll regurgitate platitudes and happy cliche’s while bankrupting the city?

          • Ah yes because pushing a subway extension that will run half empty for many decades if not forever costing millions per year in additional operational subsidies… plus the $85 million to cancel the fully funded totally appropriate LRT that was planned… yeah Rob Ford is super great at saving us money… at least in Fraud Nation fantasy land.

          • Council is doing that. Rob has but one vote. Anything he did, they did together. He may have been driving the agenda while he had their goodwill, but a mayor that makes a city an international laughingstock while showing himself time and again to be a liar has lost all capital outside of Ford Nation. Which does the city no end of harm.

            I find it astonishing how people who claim to be right wing, pro business types can defend his staying on. Clearly, ideology and circling the wagons is far more important than any real business sense.

          • “He’s saving the city hundreds of millions of dollars per year.”

            But at what cost? Running a city is not all about cutting costs. It’s also about growing the city and with growth come greater expenses. Fact. There are efficiencies to be found to be certain, savings to be had, but really Ford cuts for the sake of cutting, desperate to prove that the fictional Gravy Train exists.

          • Well said. I would just add that many of the “efficiencies” were actually service cuts. This breaks a RoFo election promise.

          • What is RoFo if not a bozo. Been there done that. And his so-called fiscal responsible behaviour is, to be kind, questionable. Please stop believing his lies.

        • Of course he’s stolen from us. What about all the money that is wasted with RoFo pretending to be a 311 operator instead of doing his real job (I suspect he doesn’t know what it is)? Or all the Council expenses that when into passing the motions to dis-empower him because he didn’t have the decency to quietly step aside? Or all the time wasted by numerous staff dealing with distractions instead of focusing on the job at hand? I could go on.

  2. Has it not occurred to anyone that this man is brain-damaged as a result of repeated head injuries during his football playing days?

  3. “unbowed” – of course he is unbowed, or how to you “bow” a spherical object?

  4. I love how Rob Fords ‘official duties’ were taken over by the Deputy Mayor – Couldn’t they just have told people to stop calling Ford at home and call 311 to find out about their snow removal ?

  5. Odd, our so called CBC has a story a day abour Ford but have completely ignored the Obamacare debacle going on in the US right now.
    Last mention of it was over a month ago.
    The media wouldn’t have, (Gasp!), a hidden agenda, would they?

    • It’s almost as if a Canadian public broadcasting network has the duty to report *shocked* Canadian news.

  6. Next week, a media sob story about bullying people who have different views than you!

  7. “Who are the 30 per cent-plus telling pollsters they approve of Ford”?
    Actually every poll puts his approval rating in the low-mid 40s

    • Approval rating polls do. But polls of actual voter intention have him stubbornly around 30% in any number of scenarios. We’ll see what happens in October.

  8. Imagine Doug saying the lawsuit is a ploy to sell newspapers. What about Rob suing fellow councilors and a waiter at a bar? What could you get from the waiter? A couple of free drinks?

  9. The counselors are playing right into his lap.
    They’ll take his budget for themselves and then increase it.
    They’ll raise taxes.
    Ford is reelected!

    • he already raised taxes, and he was likely right to doso. Not that I don’t believe Ford supporters will believe absolutely anything he tells them and will vote for him regardless of facts.

      • “Rob Ford” supporters might not support Rob Ford but… they have seen the alternatives. Not a pretty picture.
        I would never vote for Mr. Ford. Our elected officials should be moral examples.
        Where are the moral, fiscally responsible leaders? It’s the biggest city in Canada. Surely, there’s someone out there.

  10. Toronto needs to secede from the donut before the burbs destroy a great city.

    • Agreed. The people of downtown Toronto deserve a perpetual garbage strike, never-ending tax increases to go along with a complete hollowing out of core infrastructure.

  11. Rob Ford doesn’t need help — with help, he’d be the same as he is, only more so. Those who support him appear to be the same types who want to stick their faces and geticulate (they won’t know that word anyway) in front of the TV camera that is covering a tragic traffic accident or fire: those folks want to provide what they think of as importance into what is other otherwise their mundane, unthinking existence. Rob Ford is THEIR bad boy; they just wish they had the cojones to do the same.

  12. Such typical drivel I’d expect from the Toronto Star.

    Ford’s base of support lies in an increasingly downtrodden circle of suburbs, experts say, where even if residents do not approve of his actions, the more he outrages the wealthier denizens of downtown elites, the better they like it

    Right, the only people who would vote for a fiscal conservative are a bunch of poor, uneducated rubes who are doing it simply to get back at their betters.

    Whatever, keep telling yourself that if you believe it. Just prepare to be shocked when it happens, over and over and over again.

    • Maybe not just the uneducated rubes when he was first elected, but it is surely the uneducated rubes who continue to support him.

      • What evidence do you have to say that, other than you personally believe that only uneducated rubes would vote for a fiscal conservative?

          • A leftist professor with a profound hatred of Rob Ford saying that only an idiot would vote for Rob Ford is not “evidence”.

          • Yeah if you actually watched the interview he doesn’t say anything close to what you’re pretending he did.

            What makes him a leftist exactly… sounds more like Fraud Nation deflection to me.

          • You are an example of the phenomenon you are trying to poo-pooh.

          • One can’t be a credible critic of Ford if one is a leftist with a profound hatred of him. How do you know if one a leftist with a profound hatred of Ford? If one criticizes him.

      • The Star and Daniel Dale are currently suing Rob Ford. Nothing they report on him is remotely credible.

        Even so, Dale tell us that under Ford:

        1) Toronto’s had the 3rd lowest tax increases in North America.
        2) 75% of budget surplus goes to funding capital projects.
        3) The city will save a total of $141 million over four years due to negotiating with unions instead of giving them everything they ask for

        4) Ford has stopped endless spending increases.
        5) Under Ford unemployment in the city has dropped drastically.

        Are those points really supposed to be taken as negatives of his leadership?

        • Defending Rob Ford by questioning someone else’s credibility about the facts is outrageous. Rob Ford has publically admitted on camera to buying illegal drugs while mayor, smoking crack cocaine, driving while under the influence and smoking lots of pot. He’s attacked the Toronto police chief in the press and now has been stripped of most of his mayoral duties by his peers. Top federal conservative Jason Kenny has publically demanded that Ford step down from the mayor’s chair. That’s a partial list of the grievances against Mr. Ford. Surely you gest when you say The Star and Daniel Day are the ones who lack credibility.

        • Leadership is about more than being “fiscally conservative” where taxpayer’s money is concerned. There are many people out there who would make a good Mayor. For you to believe that Ford is the ONLY saviour that can serve the people of Toronto is just illogical. What about character, morals, honesty – what about voting for someone who can bring the PRIDE back to Toronto. Or don’t you care?

        • No – but you conveniently ignore that the savings are nowhere near as large as Rob claims. Or that he has no problem increasing taxes for pet projects (the Scarborough subway line).

    • Rick: You should get a grip on reality. The latest CTV poll indicates that 62% of voters would not vote for Ford “under any circumstances”. Okay. Also the same poll showed the following: Olivia Chow 32%, John Tory 28%, Rob Ford 20%. So that’s what the “people of Toronto” are saying. And as for Ford’s “unwashed masses” pretty soon Rob and Doug will have to promise to “buy drinks” after voting day in order to get them to turn out. Rob and Doug should start negotiations for a “Reality Show” staring the entire Ford family. That would be REALITY. The public would eat it up. As for Ford for Premier, PM, Robbie is delusional.

    • The article you linked to says that because of Ford:

      1) Toronto’s had the 3rd lowest tax increases in North America.
      2) 75% of budget surplus goes to funding capital projects.
      3) The city will save a total of $141 million over four years due to negotiating with unions instead of giving them everything they ask for
      4) Ford has stopped endless spending increases.
      5) Under Ford unemployment in the city has dropped drastically.

      These don’t seem like bad things to me.

      • … nobody is saying Ford did nothing.

        The problem is that he has lied… and continues to lie about what he has done.

        • Except that he’s fessed up, hasn’t he? The fact of the matter is that most of Ford’s most ardent enemies also lie about what he’s accomplished, but they won’t admit it.

          • Um actually no he hasn’t… he has repeated his billion dollar line dozens of times.

            Care to come up with examples of his most ardent enemies lying about what he accomplished… oh you can’t because that isn’t happening… yeah thought so.

          • Here we go again. This isn’t about “accomplishments”, this is about CHARACTER and who is fit to run for public office. Do we need a person who is flawless. Of course not. But surely the people of Toronto deserve a Mayor who is not a boor, a liar, someone who associates with criminal elements, has a substance abuse problem (that he refuses to acknowledge) and someone who feels unaccountable to anyone by himself. If you feel Ford is someone who deserves to be elected again, you must be living in the same “alternate universe” as Ford and his dysfunctional family. Doug Ford being the leader of the band.

      • There are many politicians (John Tory just one) who could run this city, respect and save taxpayer’s money, and at the same time make the people of Toronto PROUD. Do you remember David Crombie (our perfect mayor). There was a man of class, substance and someone all of us could respect. Think of Premier William Davis. These are the man of character. These were politicians who made us proud to be from Toronto and indeed Canada. Now look at what we have. A man who is a boor, a compulsive liar, a bully (along with his brother), a substance abuser and someone who will not and refuses to take responsibility for his actions and feels he’s accountable to no one. What kind of man do you want to represent the great city of Toronto. If you say Ford, you have no moral compass and lack critical thinking skills and any logic whatsoever.

    • Also, considering that Daniel Dale (the author of the linked-to article) and the Toronto Star are currently suing Rob Ford, I don’t think their reporting on anything related to the governance of the city of Toronto should be taken remotely seriously.

      • Are you actually going to point out some inaccuracy or are you just full of crap like the Fords?

        • I don’t need to point out any inaccuracies. The Toronto Star and Daniel Dale are suing Rob Ford, they’re clearly not capable of unbiased reporting on anything he does. In fact they have a motive to defame and slander him at every opportunity to help their lawsuit.

          • Um yeah actually you do have to point out if there are any inaccuracies… otherwise you’re just spouting BS.

          • Read the bloody article. Daniel Dale himself admits that Rob Ford has saved the city hundreds of millions of dollars. Quibble about the # of millions all you want.

          • Sorry let’s stay on topic shall we… you claimed that we couldn’t trust what was said in the article but couldn’t point out any inaccuracies.

  13. Ford is the top news maker as media wants to talk the focus off of other government and endemic corruption in our society. Sorry media, Ford has not stolen money from us, hasn’t done inflated contracts for low rend, doesn’t do offshore tax evasion, nor expense report cheating, nor waste like only a Canadian senate can do.

    Maybe that is why media hates Ford so much, not corrupt enough. After all mafia and police raced to get the video to extort him. No further mention either of two city councilors getting low rent for favors, and CRA should at least treat the low rent as a taxable benefit.

    No reporting on how bleeding and losing money Air Canada with a junk credit rating is going to pay for $6.5 billion in planes. A story the back room doesn’t want out in the open for sure, as it smells like Mulroney-Schriber with Boeing and not Airbus this time.

    But Ford still gets my vote a he hasn’t stolen from us like other mayors no longer in the news and they quietly got away with their inflated contracts and kickbacks.

    • Yes it’s the police’s fault that idiot mayor allowed himself to be videotaped smoking crack… of course so obvious.

    • dave777: Your comment only illustrates that you yourself lack critical thinking skills and basic logic. What kind of person has a press conference and talks about “oral sex” with such words as “eat her p-ssy”. Only a moron, a boor, a person who lacks decency and respect for woman. Do voters need to know that Ford “has plenty to EAT at home”. Get a grip. What should parents have told their kids who came home from school and said “what is eating p—sy” Is he “eating a pussy cat”. People like you have no moral compass. This man claims to want to protect his poor kids from all this attention. Yet, he’s the author of his own misfortune. Nobody told Ford to drink and drive, smoke crack, lie about everything that he’s accused of. No this was Ford himself (and his brother and family who are all enablers and deniers) and the entire dysfunctional family needs serious counselling with mental health professionals.

  14. Crooked people don’t want lose canons looking at where the money goes.

  15. Agree with the choice, but to me the real story is police inaction. Rob Ford should have been charged long ago.

    With respect to the drug charges/drinking and driving, if there isn’t enough evidence to charge Ford, it is only because the Toronto police didn’t obtain it when they most certainly could have. So many opportunities missed, while police followed Ford around after getting suspicious packages from drug dealers and drinking in schoolyards.

    But that aside, if the police have enough to charge Sandro Lisi with attempted extortion, then they also have enough to charge Rob Ford – the person Lisi was apparently getting the video for.

    There is both fear and favour IHMO. Regardless of the spats, it seems to me that there already is a conflict of interest between Rob Ford and the Toronto Police – doing him favours by not taking action when the proof is staring them in the face.

    • I don’t think you actually understand how the law works. To charge someone with drinking and driving, you need a blood alcohol sample. To charge someone with extortion, you need evidence that that person actually attempted to extort someone.

      All the “evidence” about such alleged crimes is entirely circumstantial.

      Do you also think the RCMP should charge Justin Trudeau for possession of marijuana? He’s publicly admitted that he’s broken that law on occasion, but they need more evidence than that to file a criminal charge.

    • Media bullying does not equal proof of a crime….

  16. This article “hits the nail on the head”. Rob Ford who is an “elite” (a trust fund baby himself) masquerades as a guy who’s standing up for the “little guy” when in fact he is only fooling the Ford Nation (the unwashed masses). He and his brother at not laughing WITH the Ford Nation they are laughing AT them behind their backs. How sad is that? And the truth is there is nothing Ford can do for them. He can’t bring back well paying manufacturing jobs that are ALL disappearing overseas to low wage countries. Ford is just “using” these poor folks, raging against the downtown “elites” while he and his family are millionaires living the high life. Many of these voters (being interviewed on TV) probably could not find “Kuwait” on a map and can’t string a coherent sentence together. It’s pathetic really. They have nothing but their “dreams” that Ford is their saviour. Meanwhile the Fords continue to live in their “alternate universe” and believe they are accountable to now one except themselves. Entitled to their entitlements.

    • Well they are definitely laughing at you, though I doubt they are laughing at the taxpayers.
      If you have proof to the contrary, please show us.

  17. We need Ford to move to provincial politics to clean up the multibillion dollar mess the liberals have made.

    • so far the it’s SMARTEST post ever, thank you, for the refreshing change,

  18. Ontario government sued for billions in windmill insanity.
    That doesn’t get covered, but Rob Ford eating a chicken wing at a football game is national news.

  19. Rob who?

    Mayor Ford is like the Spanish Influenza. When it was at it’s worst, that’s all people could talk about. After it passed, nobody wanted to discuss the matter.

    Look at news articles from 1918. They kinda look like the news’ coverage of Rob Ford. Front page one day, nary a mention the next.

  20. But he hasn’t stolen from the people.

    No low rents for favors, no cooked expense reports to embezzle, no inflated contracts, no buddy deals, no foreign vacations on the taxpayers….has not bent over taxpayers to unions…

    But hey, as a loose canon the corrupt want him out of the way so they get get back to dirty deals as usual.

    Now if the political community had candidates of and for the taxpayer people, and not just Orwellian statism back room buddies managing us….it could change. Until then, Ford has my support. I would rather pick a drunk than a statism political liar any day.

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