Why Rob Ford shouldn’t clean up his act

The mayor’s rehabilitation would be good for Toronto, but would it really be good for Ford?


Jaime Castillo

Something’s gotta give. Or maybe it doesn’t. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s political career could be the death knell of that cliché. Each time his detractors open the morning paper, read the latest Ford takedown and laugh, Rob Ford, presumably, laughs harder. He’s been the subject of every breed of scandal short of Weinergate, yet he remains as much the mayor of our country’s biggest city as he was the day his term began in 2010. He is, says Darryl Wolk, a long-time supporter and former volunteer on the 2010 Ford election campaign, “sort of Teflon.” He makes you wonder, says Wolk, “Is there such a thing as bad publicity?”

Or has all the Rob Ford publicity following the anti-climactic crack cocaine scandal, in which the alleged incriminating video never surfaced, made us too weary to protest? If that didn’t bring him down, after all, what can? Rob Ford’s success, it seems, is based on the presumption that the ugly truth is superior to a pleasant lie. Ford is nothing if not raw. Unlike his far slicker political contemporaries, most of whom can’t deliver a single, unpolished human sentiment, the Toronto mayor mumbles his way through awkwardly written press releases like a reluctant fourth grader at show and tell. Ford is so raw, he stains his shirt, flips off self-righteous mom-drivers, abandons his weight loss goals and, most recently—attends downtown street festivals seemingly intoxicated. That’s right: August has given Toronto another Ford fumble to bemoan and secretly relish. On Friday, Aug. 9, the mayor was caught on camera slurring his words, moving slowly down an east-end Toronto street at Taste of the Danforth, the city’s annual Greek food and culture festival. On his talk-radio show a few days later, Ford came to his own defence, saying he had had a “few beers” and “let his hair down.” His critics didn’t buy it, of course, and so began their usual refrain about the embarrassment that is our mayor.

This revelation—coupled with a recent Globe and Mail story about Ford having tried to visited a childhood friend, Bruno Bellissimo, at a west-end Toronto jail in March (apparently, a man with a “history of drug-related activity”)—is even more reason for him to step down or get help, according to his haters. Toronto City Councillor Jaye Robinson told CBC’s Metro Morning after the Danforth incident that, if Ford “wants to be the mayor of this great city, he needs to take a leave of absence and get help. It’s in the best interest for the mayor and it’s in the best interest for Toronto.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same faux sympathy every Ford-wary politician digs up every time the mayor’s done something uncouth. And it’s getting tired. We know they don’t really care, but now, more than ever, we know they’re wrong.

Ford’s rehabilitation would be good for Toronto, yes, but would it really be good for Rob Ford? His health may improve if he curtails his alleged bouts of public intoxication, but will his political career? Or has he already assumed, as Wolk suggests, the Teflon status of some of the more lucid big shots before him? (Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were both, at one time, compared to Teflon for their abilities to prevail over controversy.) Ford’s approval rating is still almost identically where it was post-crack scandal (and it actually rose in the weeks following the original Gawker and Toronto Star stories). Each passing faux pas, it seems, is beginning to work in his favour. Some chalk it up to a levity most of us will never achieve: not caring what other people think. “He is gloriously un-self-conscious in a hyper-self-conscious world,” a provincial Ontario Liberal staffer told me (she preferred not to be named.) Others give credit to simple name recognition, arguably the most important thing any politician can have. Flawed or not, Ford is one of the only municipal politicians many people could pick out of a lineup. (He is also, if we are to believe the allegations, the one most likely to actually appear in a lineup.)

This month, the mayor announced he is “obsessed” with cleaning up the city’s graffiti. He even established a partnership with a graffiti cleanup service that’s offering a 15 per cent discount for work on private property, and complimentary services to Toronto residents whose property has been defaced with images that are “hate- and violence-related.” “Everywhere there is graffiti,” he warned, “I will guarantee that we will be removing it.” This is especially interesting, because an impressive amount of Toronto graffiti is actually dedicated to His Truly. Ford’s red-faced caricature marks many an alley; there are graffiti artists all over the city who specialize in Rob Ford-themed art. Knowing the mayor’s penchant for cleaning up graffiti himself (photos abound of the mayor gleefully wiping it off city walls), it’s quite possible that, sometime soon, we’ll see him expunging his own cartoonish face from the walls of Toronto’s buildings. Ford is literally at war with his own tainted image. But it’s a war he may want to reconsider, because if this season’s polls are any indication, it could be the best thing he has going for him.

Have a comment to share? emma.teitel@macleans.rogers.com


Why Rob Ford shouldn’t clean up his act

  1. Ford is the way a lot of people see themselves….so he represents them perfectly.

    What that says about our country is another matter…..but he’s just being Ralph Klein.

    • A lot of people see themselves as out-of-control arrogant lairs whose closest acquaintances deal drugs and assault women?
      God help us all.

        • Exactly, and this is why thoughtless op-ed pieces like Teitel’s are more than just claptrap: they’re dangerous.

          • It’s people like you that are dangerous, people that don’t believe in free speech or democratic elections.

    • Ralph Klein never let government run him, he was there to run government, which is why the statism-liberals hated him so much.

      While most politicians are back room bought off liars to the public, Ralph, Ford, tried to do exactly what they said they would do. To Ralph and Ford, they don’t believe the only solution is more taxes and more government.

      So it is no surprise that crack heads, liberals, socialists, unions and other peoples money for nothing types are all out to slander, harass and do whatever it takes to get him out.

      But I is why I always voted Klein from day one, he never lied to us to tax us like slaves. He represented the people and managed government.

      • The only thing Klein ever ran was his mouth, same as Ford.

        • Nonsense!
          He ran his car off the road on several occasions!

          • LOL good point!

        • “EmilyOne”,

          you dare criticize Saint Ralph?

          don’t come to AB without your Kevlar vest.

          • Heh. I’m amazed people followed him.

      • “………and other peoples money for nothing types……..”

        Are you mental?
        Now look at them yo-yos, that’s the way you do it…….money for nothin’ and your chicks for free!
        Toronto is indeed in dire straits with Mr. Ford at the helm

    • As long as Rob Ford can get up the next morning and go to work, he doesn’t have drug problem. He just has a hangover, right? However, I’m sure I would like him to be mayor of MY city.

      • He doesn’t have a ‘drug’ problem, he has a mental problem. Doing drugs is just a symptom.

      • See, that is the point, he doesn’t get up the next “morning” and go to work. It is quite well known that he does not stroll in until around 1pm. Which is why his schedule is not known to ANYONE, not even his closest staffers. That way all of his extended absences and lateness can be easily lied about. Ford just says that he was at “meetings” that no one can verify.

  2. Check Saturday’s Toronto Star. People are getting HURT!!

    • Why? I rather read Macleans as they are not crack head liberal-statism appeasers like CBC or the Star.

      • Heh!
        Don’t you be derogating the hallowed CBC!
        As far as liberal-statism appeasers go, they’re one of the best!

    • Yes, reading the Toronto Star is very painful, no doubt.

    • ???

  3. Why are politicians so up tight about Ford? I know its their mantra but they reveal their double standard. Liberals parade down the street naked, break public decencancy laws, spout moral relativism and Rob Ford needs help. Disgusting.

    • Oh, I’m so sad that I missed the story about the Liberals “parading down the street naked” and “breaking public decency laws”. Please point me to the article that shows that.
      Typical Moron Nation deflection.

      • Can you not read?

        “mathew” pixellated, “……break public decencancy laws……” Nothing was mentioned vis a vis “decency laws”. There is a awesome difference, ya know!

        Typical unlettered hater-of-Moron Nation deflection!


        Do you happen to identify with the character played by John Malkovich in the film “Burn After Reading”? He had problems with morons too.

  4. Have the Mayor’s PR team get him on a TV show where he’ll announce that if he’s elected to another term, he’ll stop drinking, making a fool of himself, and quit hanging around with Somalian drug dealers. Because those type of individuals, especially the one’s who claim to have a video of him with a bong, tend to get whacked as a result.

  5. Great video piece. You’ve given more layered complexity to the graffiti – it’s content/context/subject/meaning – than most.

  6. I didn’t like Emma Teitel at first – the media hardly needs another man-hating Marxist – but her columns have a Mile Davis quality to them: zero logical coherence. She zigs when one logically expects a zag. It doesn’t even rise to the level of the typical female Rationalization Hampster since there is no actual point to rationalize.

    I wuv you Emma! Keep on truckin sister!

    • Marx was female?

      You folks all get too much sun today or what??

    • This comment was deleted.

      • In fact she hasn’t exactly championed the men’s rights movement but she has given them better coverage than they probably deserve. She may have her faults but I think furry is off on this one.

        • That’s it?
          That’s all you have to say about my gloriously hyperbolic treatise on the “C” word?
          I hail from a Matriarchal society in the north of Myanmar – utterly free of the Judeo-Christian Patriarchy of the Western World. My gran told me that our ‘Society’ once had a nascent “Men’s Rights Movement” – long before I was born. Apparently the ring-leaders were rounded-up and executed. If we are anything, we are pragmatic!

  7. Shouldn’t say it was a cocaine scandal, more like a hoax as leftie media could never prove it. Ford is doing good as is. Any politician that has crack heads, Liberals, socialists, losers and civic unions in a snit is probably the kind of politician I would vote for. Ford doesn’t have the attitude of “its just other peoples money” and pushes back on the money for nothing crowd. Ford doesn’t bend over for the idiocracy.

    It is his trademark.

    • Just so you all know, dave777 is just a troll. Don’t take him seriously, or reply to him seriously. After reading a few “replies” from him, it’s obvious he’s just trolling as a laughably extreme, rightest red-neck. Honest-to-god rednecks actually know Ford does drug, but they don’t care. Anyone who pretends they believe it is all a “conspiracy” is just having a laugh.

      • dave777 like the rest of his ilk always goes over the top

    • Youre saying he doesnt bend over for you and the rest of the mouth breathers?

  8. Maybe it is just that Rob Ford tries to do exactly what he said he would do! People do not like liars or cheats, i..e Wynne or McGuinty or Smitherman or Trudeau. Ford does not try to regulate your life like, Wynne, McGuinty or Smitherman or Trudeau.

    • He can’t even regulate his own life!

    • What people don’t realize is that it isn’t Ford the one executing his ideas and plans.

      Ie. Del Grande was responsible for the budget.
      Ie. Doug Holyday worked on the union contract negotiations.
      Ie. Denzil Minnan-Wong worked on contracts, especially under the area of contracting out services.
      Ie. Stintz on TTC.

      When all is said and done, what has Rob Ford done that we give him credit for? His predecessors Mayor David Miller, and Mayor Mel Lastman both managed to win Toronto’s fair share of infrastructure projects from both levels of government. To date, Rob Ford has not come close to either mayor’s record.

      So when you have time coach Football during work hours, its a likely sign that you are hardly working.

  9. Rob Ford supporters like Rob Ford for the same reason Emma Teitel hated him instantly: identity politics. And yes sophisticated, cosmopolitan urbanites with [cute] hipster bangs are as guilty of it as fat red-face suburbanites.

    But honestly, there’s a little Rob Ford in all of us – even “liberal elites”. A certain Toronto Star writer (admittedly not Daniel Dale) once ran after my brother with a hammer, and the only mayor I’ve ever seen drunk in public was Miller (he told me “council f***ing sucked today” – awesome candour on his part).

    On both sides, we’d be a lot more credible if we judged other people by the same standards we judge ourselves, and those like us.

    • . . . and accepted a 300-pound crackhead a**hole as our beloved mayor.

      That’s where you lost me.

      • Rob Ford is a bad mayor, but lots of people came to that conclusion before his disastrous tenure, and without much reference to his policies (I mean, the Toronto Star endorsed Smitherman who is a crooked cokehead asshole).

        Ford is a bad mayor because:
        -he has shortsighted policies
        -he has alienated council, and can’t implement an agenda
        -he abused municipal resources
        -he often doesn’t do his job

        His gaffes and obesity have no material impact on people’s lives or on the city in the long-run (mention Toronto in the US and you’ll hear “I’ve heard it’s nice there”). Substance abuse issues may contribute to some of his short-comings listed above, but plenty of people with similar issues have been perfectly fine leaders. Our greatest Prime Minister was a massive drunk (and an a*hole to boot).

        • Well he wasn’t the ‘greatest’…..and his personal life was a tragedy, but he did manage to accomplish a few things

          • to quote the old cliche:

            “even a broken clock is right twice a day”

        • For the record, crack is not whiskey.

          Anyway, Ford & Smitherman aside, your main argument is bizarre. There’s something invalid about hating somebody because he is the incarnation of bad morality (which includes being hugely fat, a major character flaw)? On the contrary, it’s the most natural thing in the world. That half the voters are also morally bankrupt is the one useful thing Ford goes to prove. Identity politics are the only interesting kind, everything else is either greasy contracts or unimplemented wonkery. The will to rise above it all, as though one had no morality oneself, is an affectation.

  10. Wait till Toronto gets a Mayor who taxes you to death like Miller then You’ll be crying for Rob Ford and wow Weight Challenged is politically correct and all who use the word fat are mean to all Weight Challenged people, everyone loves Santa and he’s not skinny, so be nice count the money Rod Ford Saved You Toronto and lets hope all of you are squeaky clean fit and honest Church Goers who have nothing to hide.

    • Go back to school

      We should take away the right to vote for drop outs and people with limited cognitive capacity, wer e being ruined by idiots

      Oh, i might-not go to church, but i aint no crackhead

    • long term debt is up 200 percent under Ford. Easy to pay the visa bill when you’re not paying the mortgage

      or fixing the Gardner, or anything else

      Nice pose by the way. Is that to emphasize to the other guys that you’re on the same team?

  11. Mayor Rob Ford is popular for the same reason Howard Stern dominates the ratings on Sirius XM Radio and has a loyal following on Howard TV.

    people tune-in every day just to hear the outrageous garbage coming out of his mouth and witness the bizarre antics performed on his show.

    it certainly adds to the excitement of life in Canada’s largest metropolis.

  12. So in other words, Toronto is best off with a fourth grader as a mayor? This article is moronic.

    • No, you don’t understand: she’s talking objectively about Ford’s political career, not the fate of Toronto. Obviously we’d be better off with a sixth grader.

  13. This drivel from this columnist is a little bit disturbing. Uses the words “seemingly intoxicated” to describe Mr Ford’s visit to the Danforth. If that is the case then he was “seemingly intoxicated” BEFORE he parked his car! The YouTubing started shortly after he left his car. But maybe Ford shouldn’t worry about this kind of behaviour because it is not hurting his image? Really? This is a very serious matter. To treat it as a joke is not just in poor taste. It is disgraceful.

  14. I am surprised my gloriously hyperbolic treatise on the “C” word was left to stand for as long as it was.

    Longer than Erica Jung’s use of the “C” word was left to stand on the video here at TVO!


    Ha! Maclean’s is liberal like Canada, sort of! Certainly more so than TVO!

    When I was occasionally deleted from the comment sections of “The National Post” and “CBC(dot)ca”, at least the deleting “Administrator” took the time to email me and explain why she/it/he was forced to delete me even though ‘management’ often quite appreciated my wit and raillery. Once, even, a website – which will go un-named and un-loved – offered me a job! I declined.

    • Wow.


  15. Generally speaking, she’s not wrong. The more Ford embarasses himself or engages in questionable/criminal behaviour, the more he appeals to his base. It’s really quite sad, since at this point they’ll support anything he does. People think he’s an anti-politician, but he’s a total fraud.