The following words belong to Catherine.
There is a bad odour in Toronto right now and it can’t be blamed on dog owners and the spring thaw. It’s an odour you can’t quite distinguish, but it’s distinctive and we can no longer ignore it. Like that bag full of orange peels, eggshells and coffee grounds you procrastinate over taking out to the green bin. There’s no smell at first, then it becomes a faint nagging odour for a few days until you walk into the kitchen and it hits you like a slap in the face.
The stench grew stronger this week with the pissing contest between the OPP and Toronto Police Services (TPS) - the OPP has backed away from the investigation claiming that, barring any new evidence, there is nothing to charge Rob Ford with and - get this - he may have been the victim of extortion attempts. The TPS’s lead investigator Det. Sgt. Gary Giroux, however, insists there is and that the investigation is on-going. Is there something rotten with our provincial and city police forces? Rumours abound - is the top echelon at the OPP squashing the case? Did the TPS bungle the investigation? Did they waste their chance of arresting Ford during their surveillance of him and Sandro Lisi exchanging mysterious packages? Does Ford have friends in high places? With the release of more Brazen 2 documents which continue to suggest Ford’s involvement in Lisi’s attempt to retrieve the crack video, Ford-weary Torontonians threw up their hands in disgust and frustration. While an arrest wouldn’t have solved the problem, it definitely would have felt like a confirmation of things we already know.
Ford’s lack of shame and sense of entitlement are stunning. The man feels that there’s nothing wrong with purchasing illegal drugs while in office, hanging out with gang members, getting into drunken stupors on a regular basis, driving while under the influence, urinating publicly, uttering racial and homophobic slurs, arriving at his office in the middle of the day without releasing his daily schedule, running away from reporters and lying extensively in the face of facts. And these are just the things we know about...
When the mayor’s powers were stripped after he admitted to smoking crack cocaine, it was because Council believed he was unable to make important decisions in an emergency situation. Ford’s ineptitude was apparent when he was MIA through much of the morning after December’s ice storm. His malice toward Council surfaced when he refused to declare an emergency while neighbourhoods throughout the city went as long as a week or more without power - all the while he handed out magnets and staged photo-ops while people froze in their dark homes.
More recently, Ford voted against motions to honour Nelson Mandela and congratulate Canada's Olympic and Paralympic athletes (this was not accidental - it was only after his staff apprised him of the furor his votes caused, 30 minutes after the fact, that he asked for a re-vote). Why is his suitability for public office still being debated?
What all this has proven is how ill-equipped we are as a city to deal with unfit leaders. But while council’s hands are tied, we can do this much: we can stop enabling him.
The reactions of the crowds that engulf him at sporting events and the nightclubs he frequents makes it appear that Ford is thought of as a rock star. But all the selfies, tweets and videos do not translate into votes and electoral support. Peer a little deeper, read the comments and captions, and what you see is a man who is the target of jeers, not cheers - people are laughing at him, not with him; they are goading him into further embarrassing behaviour. Because let’s face it - people like to see a train wreck. When have we become a city of enablers? Whether they’re true Ford supporters or Ford mockers, either way, they’re enabling him to continue on his downward spiral.
To Ford Nation: your unwavering support and defence of a man whose personal issues are affecting his performance as mayor is selfish. Your glee at the disgust and frustration he causes the “downtown leftie elite” ignores a man who is suffering from serious problems with drugs and alcohol. The Rob Ford of today is not the one you elected in 2010 (I would also argue that the Rob Ford you elected three years ago never really existed). If he gets worse, and all signs tell us he will, it will be on you. If he gets re-elected, he will get worse - look what the last 3+ years has done to him. You are enabling a deeply troubled man’s delusions that he can continue down the same road without eventually crashing.
To community and business leaders, and our mayoral candidates: your refusal to call him on his behaviour, to recognize a man that is out of control and refuse to comment on his “personal issues” - shame on you. You have the ability and position to speak out and say something but you choose not to do so. Is it out of politeness or out of fear?
Perhaps it’s because we’ve never had to deal with something like this before. Even Mel Lastman’s gaffes were tame compared to Ford’s. It’s going to take a collected and concerted effort, from Council to the media, to volunteers and voters, to take the garbage out to the green bin. Until that happens, we’ll have to live with the stench until October 27. Let’s not have four more years of it.