He did it again. And it didn't take long. Rob Ford reassumed his duties at City Hall last week and like clockwork, reappeared in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
On Canada Day, just one day into his return from rehab, Ford was confronted by a candidate for City Hall asking whether he would apologize for using the n-word to describe black Canadians and for referring to programs targeting at-risk-youth as "hug a thug" programming. Ford's answer? "It's complicated."
On the same day, Ford was publicly lambasted when Joe Killoran, a civics teacher out for jog, called Ford out for being a "corrupt, racist, lying, homophobe" and demanded answers to questions of self-interested lobbying at city hall.
Social media exploded. The confrontation made its way south of the border too. #shirtless jogger became the unexpected hero among those - of which I am one- who believe that Rob Ford is a disgrace and needs to go.
When covering the story for the Globe and Mail, Marcus Gee argued that #shirtless jogger is exactly what Toronto needs: more people venting their frustration and calling the mayor out publicly in order to push him out of the mayor's chair.
But this is the wrong approach. It's not that we need less shirtless joggers. It's that public outrage may serve no other purpose than drawing attention to the mayor and emboldening those who support him.
Ford's supporters believe that he is their anti-establishment candidate who is being unfairly targeted by the media and downtown-centric councillors who subscribe to a tax and spend consensus. The reports on his latest altercations reinforce the narrative. They only provide further proof that the elite are out to get him.
But Gee takes the opposite view. He argues that leaders in the city have been absent in expressing their own outrage: where was the "outcry from leaders of the business, the universities or the arts?" when we needed them last year? It took a regular jogger to fill the void and give voice to the majority of angry voters.
On certain fronts, he may have a point. But for the most part, when the Rob Ford scandal was at its peak in the fall, politicians, community leaders and editorial boards from all major newspapers were unanimous in stating that Rob Ford must go. It was consistent across the political spectrum. Find me another time, before or since, when the likes of Jason Kenney and Adam Vaughan were advocating for the same position. But when people voiced their frustrations, Ford's approval numbers were impervious and stubborn, just like the man himself. In November, after Chief Bill Blair announced that the police seized a video of Ford doing drugs, Ford's approval ratings were at 44 per cent. In fact, his approval shot up by 5 per cent after the police's revelations.
But look back at this past spring, when Rob Ford was away in rehab. There was no media circus. No calls for Ford to resign. And he received no exposure as a public joke on late-night TV. The result: Ford's approval rating among Torontonians sunk to 28 per cent. That's right -- it wasn't an unfortunate media scrum mentioning female genitalia that brought his numbers to the lowest ever since his election. It was the fact that he wasn't in the news.
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.
If we really want to stop Rob Ford from being re-elected, we should question whether being indignant and protesting in the streets is the constructive way to go.
No doubt, we should be alarmed. We should also be angered. But instead of sharing an article like this one, or creating a new hashtag for the next anti-Ford, maybe we should simply reflect on the silence of this past spring, ignore Ford, and just let him recede into political insignificance.
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