The fallout from Rob Ford dropping out of the mayoral race is yet to be seen but there is a hidden picture which bears discussion -- the age old myth: "it might happen to you but it won't happen to me!" When an illness strikes or a death occurs it is too late to take care of many important issues.
Now more than ever we need to acknowledge that an election choice is more subtle than any winner-take-all contest can ever capture. Voters are forced to choose the lesser of all evils and vote strategically about who they want as well as keep in mind who they are afraid might win. Why not let the voters rank the evils directly and stop worrying? It would be more honest. Government and democracy are about more than just finding efficiencies, lowering taxes or even getting people moving. Informed and responsible citizens of a democracy need to work to make the system better.
With only six weeks to go until Toronto elects its next municipal government, Doug Ford, the obnoxious, ignorant, careless, and deeply polarizing former Councillor with his own conflicts of interest and drug dealing past, is now stepping in to try to rescue his brother's administration. Good luck with that. Regardless of the end result of Rob Ford's medical situation, whether it's manageable or not (and again let's hope it is a solvable problem), it's the end of a turbulent era in Toronto politics.
The trouble is that recent years have invigorated the mayor's brand of hyperbole politics. It pays out in spades for those willing to join the bandwagon and echo the "us versus them" chorus. Its cronies transcend party lines; its victims and resisters fade quickly from memory ("not a leader", anyone?). It is the Ford Nation creed. A new, normalized nastiness has imbued the body politic, harshly demarking who is "one of us" and who is to be cast aside. Its candidates bob in the fickle surf of prejudice or fashionable platitudes, instead of wading into their own vision or fair-minded convictions.
It's been more than a year since Ford was revealed to be a crack smoker but he has maintained his meaty grip on power, and is currently dominating the media coverage of Toronto's upcoming municipal election. To pull this off, Ford has redefined the art of crisis communications, demonstrating that you can survive scandal by simply avoiding the truth or drowning it out. Ford is not, of course, the first to use silence, denial and obfuscation to advance his own interests.
This week, two European tourists complained about the Canadian car culture after a brief stint in the 10 million square kilometer nation of over 35-million people. The British and Danish complainers now reside in Aarhus, Denmark. While I support criticizing a country, it is also good to have the facts in order. To that end, here are some stats Chabowski should have taken into account before making rush judgments on Canadian society.
It's late. Really late. Like 3:49am late. July 28, 2014. I am listening to Kevin Drew. He is from Toronto for those who don't know. I can't sleep. I...
In 2012, referring to council, Doug Ford said: "I can't get anywhere with these monkeys." Was that a term of endearment? How can Mayor Ford expect to get anything done at City Hall when you use such language? Oh, that's right. Since then, he mostly hasn't. No need to answer. When you told the father of an autistic child who rightly and democratically challenged your views to "go to hell," what were you thinking?
It benefits us all to be honest with ourselves and recognize that adopted in 1971, enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 and further enacted in law in 1988, Canadian multiculturalism is a socio-economic failure that now stains our national mosaic. There is nothing new in pointing out the failure(s) of multiculturalism. However, what has yet to be engaged as a public conversation is the consideration that, as our society's seeping open secret, the socio-economic failure of multiculturalism is what explains the festering phenomenon of black support for Rob Ford.
Mr. Ford and Mr. Tory share something else. Neither wants to work to the plan we have, preferring instead to draw new lines on maps. It's never easy to decipher what, precisely, Mr. Tory believes today, but it seems he no longer supports the Sheppard or Finch LRT's. And he certainly no longer supports the subway relief line that is the TTC's top priority, which is odd because getting it built allegedly propelled him to run.
If the purpose of life is to awaken, then we really have only two choices to make. We can make a conscious decision to learn from joy and freedom, or ...
In the case of someone like Rob Ford, he may have very little control over his cravings for alcohol, and this is where he deserves sympathy. In a culture where everyone has something -- coffee, cigarettes, marijuana, shopping, alcohol, need for approval, etc. -- it shouldn't be too hard for us to sympathize with someone dealing with a dependence problem. However, as a man who has good financial resources and who is capable of accomplishing significant person goals, he has considerable, personal influence over the treatment of this problem.
That's what makes Ford Nation so extraordinary -- the incredible dichotomy that exists when it comes to criticism of most politicians and criticism of Rob Ford. Ford effectively gets what amounts to a jaw-dropping free pass from his base (in Toronto or in B.C.) nine times out of 10.
The mayor is only relevant if people make him relevant. For every time we make a sensation about Rob Ford and his latest scandal, we give him attention that he does not deserve. His election chances were ill-served when social media went quiet, and we are now ill-served by perpetuating stories about how he is a tactless, corrupt, and bigoted embarrassment to the city.
When the shirtless jogger encountered Rob Ford at the Canada Day parade he took the opportunity to do something the media had been forbidden to do the day before: He asked the mayor questions. Like it or not, our elected leaders should expect to be asked hard questions -- and they should be ready to answer those questions, because in a democracy, we expect accountability. And we should be relieved that teachers like Mr. Killoran are demonstrating the courage it takes to stand up and hold politicians accountable.
Yesterday, I had an unpleasant encounter with Mayor Rob Ford at Ribfest. I shook his hand and asked him if he was going to apologize for referring to African Canadians as "niggers," and to community grant programs as "hug-a-thug" programs. The brief exchange ended with him shrugging and saying "It's complicated," before walking away. As Rob turned his broad back on me and walked away, I was left alone to contemplate the futility of asking Rob Ford any questions at all. He doesn't answer them because he doesn't need to. Because we don't make him.