The Rob Ford Story Continues Rolling Over Toronto

I don’t ever recall a news story breaking every day, or every few hours, for over a week. It used to be a blog post could be considered current for at least a day, but my post yesterday on Toronto’s mayor was half obsolete within hours. Oy vey! So instead of doing an update, I’m just going to rewrite it.

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.

The story about Mayor Rob Ford’s alleged alcohol problem has been building slowly since the last municipal election when then-Councillor Rob Ford put his hat into the ring for mayor. On Friday, Mayor Ford was essentially outed as an alcoholic by an anonymous source 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 Mayor Ford behave more and more erratically and fail us on the public transit issue through rigid thinking, and his acolytes enable him by buying into the story that it’s all “the Toronto Star’s fault.” Yet it seemed that things had settled down after he’d won his court cases. What more could happen?

He groped Sarah Thomson, according to her account 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. 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; his enemies want his head. But this is not about guilt or innocence. Alcoholism is not a crime; it’s a disease.

Instead of causing chaos in a family like 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 win the next election.

Twitter Convo Doug Ford w Matness 23 May 2013

Similarly if Doug Ford had responded to Saturday’s Globe and Mail story about him dealing hashish decades ago with a lawsuit or, yeah, I did it, I’m sorry, and I’ve learnt from that bad time, instead of the rambling interviews he gave to almost every media outlet going, most of us would nod at Doug, as if to say, we’ve all done things we regret, then frown at the Globe. But that’s a side show. This whole mess is not a matter of ethics or of guilt or incompetence, it’s a matter of a brain doing its best to avoid hard truths. Even when Mayor Ford finally, at the urging of his Executive Council, stepped up to the microphone, he used lawyer-speak, and he never addressed the alcoholism allegations that were brought up in the past and remain part of the issue. He’s right that this week has taken a toll on the city, but it hasn’t been just this week. It’s been building for over a year.

Rob Ford said in the presser (see video): “this administration is turning the corner.”

Anyone with experience with people in denial have heard this one before. The video in question 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 business continues.

It may be continuing, but the public is not engaged because we’re busy watching the Mayor implode.

The public needs to be engaged in order to resolve the humungous problems facing the city, such as crappy 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 – which I thought would’ve been losing his coaching gig of the Don Bosco Eagles -- 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. 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. It’s time for Mayor Ford’s close ones to hold an intervention and for the rest of us to sever ties, temporarily at least.

There is no remedy in law to make a mayor leave. Mayor Ford will remain mayor unless he himself chooses to take a leave of absence. I posit 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.

Updated at 5:54 pm with underlined words


Thingamabob said…

Self-analysis is a mug's game. At best, we can only ever get a glimpse into our own rationality, our own prejudices, our own drives. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth doing.

When you write "Endearing is the exact word! This is what ppl who hate Ford can't see." you may be onto something. But you may instead be doing exactly what you accuse those who "hate Ford" of doing: acting based on perceptions and prejudices that may not be justified.

Turn this around: perhaps you will one day be able to acknowledge that Mr. Ford's long history of brushes with the law, browbeating and verbally accosting his opponents, domestic assault, disorderly public conduct, ill-considered and hurtful statements about everyone from gays to bike riders, connections with known drug dealers (including his two brothers and sister) and so on... Perhaps you'll be able to recognize that the phrase "Contemptuous is the exact word! This is what ppl who worship Ford can't see." is at least as likely to be correct.

This man, regardless of his personal foibles, is a terrible mayor. Even if he's all for eliminating waste and lowering taxes. I don't hate the man, I hate what he's doing to the city. And I am frustrated by some people's inability to get beyond their clearly mistaken perceptions of the man and judge the mayor as you would judge any other mayor.
Thingamabob: I've written about Rob Ford before, about how he rose and won the mayoralty because of the previous Council isolating the right and also riding roughshod over any who disagreed with them. I have also criticized him on his continuing that polarization in Council, which he said he wouldn't do, and his failure on the subway file. But all those things you list as him being contemptuous (I think what you said, if I read it right) is more a mark of the behaviour of an alcoholic or addict than his political mien; for example, his calling media maggots then apologising is also a sign of that kind of erratic behaviour. He needs to take a leave of absence and get help. I really hope he does.
Thingamabob said…
Thanks for the reply Shireen. But, in all honesty, many of the behaviours he has engaged in which cause him/his causes harm are not directly related to or exculpated by alcoholism, should he suffer from it (which he resolutely denies (as do all unrepentant alcoholics)). On the other hand, I see no reason for you to continue to rationalize these many bad consequences, and assume that if he got help he'd be the great mayor you imagine he could be, in the face of all the steadily mounting evidence.

It may just be that Mr. Ford is not who you think he is. And certainly, since you are asking me (I will lump myself in with those you refer to as "ppl who hate Ford" though I don't hate him) to consider that he is not who I think him to be, the least you could do is take your own advice.

At some point, events are likely to prove either the Ford-haters or Ford-worshippers to be closer to the truth. I'd like to feel that I was someone who simply exercised good judgment. Isn't that what you'd like to be too?
Thingamabob: my point isn't that he is, de facto, a bad mayor, but that he has a health problem that he must deal with because it's putting the city into chaos. And since Torontonians elected him in, whether or not you or I agree with the majority choice or not, it's valid until the next election. At this point, there would be no election to replace him, as per municipal rules anyway. And since he has a health problem, he should be given a chance, like we would for any human being, to get help and return.

I don't think either Ford haters or Ford worshippers are going to be proven to be right, for they're too partisan. Truth is more likely to be in the middle, where I am.