I'm hoping very much that I don't need to go into all the absurd things uttered by Toronto's increasingly more bizarre Mayor, Rob Ford as, by now, I think the whole world has seen them and, frankly, if a photograph emerged of Mayor Ford standing secretively on the grassy knoll off Dealey Plaza, I don't think anyone would be overly surprized!
However, just in case you've managed to avoid the seemingly endless stream of drivel and obscenities which emit from this man's mouth, I'll give you a brief taster...
Mayor Ford is the man who called one of his opponents, Justin Trudeau, a "fag", he described his children's football team as "a bunch of minorities", when the media began digging around trying to get a hold of the now infamous "crack smoking video" he stated that all journalists were "maggots" and so it goes on.
I have to admit that, speaking personally, his crack smoking admission really doesn't concern me over much, other things he has said and done over the past years concern me far more. His admission, which was eventually forced from him despite the weeks of denial from him which preceded it, when the aforementioned video finally surfaced, seemed to be less an apology and more of a campaign speech for his 2014 re-election. Only Rob Ford could seriously think that it was either the time or the place to launch such a campaign, but launch it he did. Apparently, his crack smoking was a result of a "drunker stupor" and Mayor Ford informs us that we should all understand this as, no doubt, we have all done the same thing at some point (I'll leave that one hanging in the air!)
Why he hasn't been arrested yet is beyond me, since he has publicly admitted to so many illegal acts recently.
Ah, yes indeed - Rob Ford - the millionaire, crack smoking, racist, homophobic bully - the EVERYMAN.
Much as I do not see Rob Ford as an "everyman" by anyone's standards, I do think Toronto itself is fairly representative of many, many other cities. It has a very mixed demographic, very mixed economic and political base and, in a great number of ways, is illustrative of a great many other cities worldwide. And this is why we should all care very much about what happens there.
For weeks now I've been dreading the emergence of a 'sex tape' depicting Ford in some preposterous contortion but, so far fortunately, none has emerged and for this I think we are all grateful for that! However, his now-infamous "pussy" comment came pretty close.
Ford takes his wife to a press conference where he is intending (apparently) to apologize for using prostitutes, and while she stands awkwardly by in the corner of the room, he announces to the world that he had no need to ask the prostitute if he could "eat her pussy" as he is a "happily married man who gets all he needs to eat at home".
After which, and with an apparently serious face with no trace of irony, he begs the media to "leave my family out of this". Words fail me.
However, I say again, his drug taking and other shenanigans really don't bother me half as much as his casual racism, homophobic and outright bullying. His friend and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, is currently on trial for threatening to kill a woman and Police Chief Bill Blair, now indicates extortion charges will be added to the indictment. And, in the documents released un-redacted earlier this week, we now learn even more shocking details of Mayor Ford's involvement in this story. Only last week, another video surfaced which showed Rob Ford shouting and screaming and threatening violence. His rants seem endless, his shamelessness boundless and his insincerity bottomless.
Be all of this as it may, I really wanted to write about another matter here, something which not only affects Toronto, Ontario, or even Canada - it affects us ALL.
Rob Ford is unique in lots of ways but he's also not so unique in others. We all know that there are many, many corrupt, bullying and amoral politicians (in fact, sometimes I think it's an entrance requirement) but the thing which distinguishes Ford in my opinion, is his absolute absence of shame! Toronto City Councillors, in an attempt to bring this matter to an end, voted overwhelmingly for him to take a leave of absence, he refused. However, much as they may want to, Toronto City Council cannot legally simply remove Ford from office and therefore, yesterday, they voted overwhelmingly to remove many of his powers and how did he respond? He responded as he always does, by threatening to take them to Court - indeed, he has even furnished himself with a new lawyer so to do. We shall see. Mr Ford makes a lot of threats, let us see which ones come to fruition. Cllr Giorgio Mammoliti, Ford's long-time sidekick, ended up stating that he felt the rest of the council were 'bullying' Mayor Ford in a somewhat surreal outburst, while Doug and Rob Ford made claims that a "coup" was occurring!
Mayor Ford's "apologies" appear neither sincere or well-meant if the photos taken as he leaves the stage from each "apology" are anything to go by and based on the fact that, only last week he claimed "I have nothing left to hide" and "ask me anything you want" and then quickly left the podium without taking any questions while this week alone has disproved the "I have nothing left to hide" claim!
Mayor Ford seems to believe he is above the law. When called out on any of his actions, he simply threatens to sue the journalist, staff member, or whoever makes the claim (he rarely actually DOES incidentally, as one would presume that Morris (his lawyer prior to the new one being appointed yesterday) knows that "the truth is an absolute defense" even if Ford himself doesn't. He apparently feels no shame whatsoever for the pain he inflicting on his children, his wife, his electorate or the Province of Ontario. Kathleen Wynne rightly stated that "one man does not define a city" and she is right, but Rob Ford's giving it a pretty good go.
And yesterday, posted online (and then taken down without explanation) an article alleging there is a police investigation into possible domestic abuse in the Ford household and so, yet again, this miasmic story takes yet another tragic twist.
On Thursday (I think it was, the days are becoming muddled!) Kathleen Wynne, Ontario's Premier, stated that she was "truly disturbed" by the new revelations (not sure where she's been for the last couple of years since these "revelations" are mostly not new!) and she urged the Toronto City Council to find a way of resolving things as quickly as possible. She offered some hope to beleaguered Torontonians by saying that, if the council could prove it was unable to properly continue with its duties, and submitted a request to her office for help in the matter, she would seek opinions on both sides of the house and hope to give Toronto the "tools" to (essentially) remove him from office.
Subsequent to being stripped of some of his powers yesterday, both Rob and Doug (his brother) Ford spent the afternoon holding up council proceedings with pointless and unanswerable questions, voting against every single motion put before the house (bar one), and clearly intending to stagnate council business until they "get what they want". I hope Ms Wynne is watching carefully as this would surely seem to tick the "preventing the council from fulfilling their duties" box". And Rob Ford repeatedly said "Yes, I intend to continue on like this" while flicking his hands at the rest of the councillors who had, at one point, all turned their backs on him.
The problem is though, that although very few would mourn the removal of Ford from office, and I certainly wouldn't, the precedent it sets is deeply concerning.
In reality, Ford represents no one but himself - he must serve to all of us as a great cautionary warning of what happens when over-inflated ego, wealth and an over-developed sense of entitlement never hears the word "no". He exemplifies our own disconnectedness with politics in a way too because perhaps more people should have been paying attention to who he REALLY was, prior to his election. But, hindsight is a wonderful thing, we are where we are. Ford is different from most other politicians in as much as he apparently feels no personal responsibility for anything at all (however sincerely, or insincerely, others may feel it) and, unlike most politicians, he simply refuses to resign on the "I got it, I want it" principle.
Ford is only one man. One man does not a nation make (no matter how hard the Ford Brothers wish to push their "Ford Nation" ideology). And if we allow one man to change the terms of our democracy (such as it is) then I think we risk far more than just allowing one lunatic to remain in office.
What happens, further down the line, when someone who is legitimately elected as Mayor, takes a political stance which other councillors oppose for some reason. What if Edward Snowden had been Mayor of Toronto (OK, unlikely I know!) when he released the information on PRISM or a related Canadian program? Would the council then have a right to remove him "in the interests of public safety?" What, exactly, would be required for a "removal" to occur? What precedent is being set?
I think most would say that the "Rob Ford Saga" is unlikely to occur again but I would beg to differ. It's a fine line really folks, and I think we really need to think about what we are calling for here. Rob Ford will go one way or another, even if it's next year at election time. Let's not throw the metaphorical baby out with the bathwater, let's not lose sight of democracy in order to rid ourselves of one particularly revolting and heinous individual.
I think Toronto urgently needs some type of power of recall, which would allow the electorate themselves to recall him, to demand an immediate election, and to then vote for who they DO wish to have as Mayor. If Ford is re-elected then be it on every Torontonian's head! I'm the last person to wish to give Rob Ford any further days in power, I'd like to see him gone from office as much as the next person but, before we rush into supporting or calling for new powers for councillors (or any politicians), as opposed to the electorate, purely to remove one person from office, I think Toronto, Ontario, Canada and all of the rest of us, should think very carefully, beyond this one man, about what we are calling for. And why.
I have no problem at all with the idea that the electorate should have the power of recall in order to remove someone such as Rob Ford from office. I am, however, concerned about giving any further powers to politicians to do such a thing. What may be true in this particular case, may set a worrying precedent further down the line.
To end, I'll add my own plea to those of an increasing majority of Torontonians... Mayor Ford, PLEASE resign.
I doubt he will. And, in the absence of his resignation, I'll just say this...
Go carefully Toronto, the world is now paying attention...