I don’t know many alcoholics or drug addicts, but I’ve seen their effect on their kids. And it’s not pretty. This is what’s happening to Toronto, or akin to it.
Mayor Rob Ford has essentially been outed
by the anonymous source in the newspapers today who said that Mayor
Ford’s Chief of Staff was fired because he’d told the Mayor to “to deal
with his “personal problems.”” (Don Peat, The Toronto Sun, 24 May 2013).
But it’s not like this is shocking to anyone. We’ve seen the Mayor
slowly implode from his first year in office, and his acolytes enable
him by buying into the story that it’s all “the Toronto Star’s
fault.” At first, it seemed like it was just him being stubborn not to
work the system because he was so used to being a loner. And by the time
he got a clue, Council was no longer in thrall to him being the
city-wide choice of mayor and began to ignore him and to lead instead.
Why did Mayor Ford not understand from the get-go the importance of
doing the paperwork and working with fractious Councillors, no matter
how annoying they may be, in order to get the job done? Was it simple
stubbornness as so many assert, or was it alcoholism and drug addiction?
settled down, and then he had the court cases. But he won. And briefly,
it seemed like Mayor Ford was coming back to life, starting to lead
But then he went and groped Sarah Thomson, according to her account, first on Facebook
and then in the media. The picture she posted looked like other
pictures of Mayor Ford when he’s been alleged to have been drinking.
People were polarized, and as was predictable, people sided with the
man, Mayor Ford. I note that the police have not laid charges, and in
the he-said, she-said manner of these things, clearly they’ve taken his
side. But that has always been the way, as far as I’ve seen, when it
comes to alcoholics. No, it’s not their fault. It’s not them to blame
for the egregious actions, the accusations, the bad behaviour. It’s
somebody else’s fault. Or somebody is out to get them. Or it’s all in
the other person’s head. The conspiracy theories and blame games abound.
His supporters are crying out a man is innocent until proven guilty in
Canada. But this is not a matter of guilt or innocence. Alcoholism is
not a crime; it’s a disease.
Instead of causing chaos in a family
as alcoholics are wont to do, Mayor Ford is causing chaos in the city.
We are the fall-out of dysfunctional behaviour. The irony is that if he
did say, “I am an alcoholic, and I am going into rehab,” the citizens of
Toronto would fall all over themselves in their sympathy. I bet he’d
even be a shoo-in for Mayor in the next election.
issue is not a matter of ethics or of guilt or incompetence, it’s a
matter of a disease, of a brain doing its best to avoid hard truths that
is driving Mayor Ford to do what is the worst for him and for us. A
week after a video was reported to have been seen showing him smoking
crack cocaine, the video is no longer germane, for Mayor Ford with his
off-handed denials, his avoidance of the issue, of blaming others
(notably the Toronto Star, avoiding the fact it was the American Gawker
that broke the story), of completely abdicating his leadership role,
has lost the ability to govern and has plunged Toronto into a crisis,
notwithstanding Councillors at every turn trying to say that city
It may be continuing, but the public is not
engaged because we’re busy watching the Mayor implode. And the public
needs to be engaged with the humungous problems facing the city, such as
beyond-inadequate public transit, insane traffic congestion, aging and
inadequate infrastructure, and so on. Just as an alcoholic derails a
family so that no member can function adequately even at work, so has
Mayor Ford derailed us.
Unfortunately, by the very nature of who
he is and the nature of alcoholism in general, unless something drastic
happens, I cannot foresee Mayor Ford stepping up to the microphone and
saying, “I am an alcoholic, and I am going to get help,” thus allowing
the city to settle down and function properly again. I would have
thought losing the coaching job of the Don Bosco Eagles would have been
the final loss, the ultimate loss that would have tossed the cold water
of reality in Mayor Ford’s face. Apparently not. He fired his Chief of
Staff instead of facing up to the obvious.
And so unless someone
holds an intervention – something Tim Bosma did for his best friend, who
thanked Bosma at Bosma’s funeral – Ford is going to keep lurching us
Torontonians down the destructive path alcoholics always lead their
loved ones down. In the usual way of things, some family members sever
ties completely with their family alcoholic, while others continue to
enable him or her. We have been enabling Ford. Councillor Doug Ford
doing a Harper-style presser, with the caveat that he at least did
address the issue, enabled Mayor Ford’s avoidant behaviour. But it’s
time for Mayor Ford’s close ones to hold an intervention and for the
rest of us to sever ties.
There is no remedy in law to make a
mayor leave. Executive Council is issuing a statement that will
purportedly urge “Ford to finally address eight-day-old media reports on
a video that appears to show him smoking crack.” (Daniel Dale, The Toronto Star, 23 May 2013)
But Mayor Ford will remain mayor unless he himself chooses to take a
leave of absence. I would say that he needs at least six months off to
go into rehab, get clean, and become strong enough to withstand the
pressures of the office without falling back into old maladaptive
habits. Barring that, while Ford scandals rage and distract, Council
will strain to lead the city as it has been doing so for about the past
year or so, ever since Councillor Karen Stintz led the TTC revolt on
Council, until 2014. Not good.