By: Dan Laxer
Toronto used to be derisively referred to as the Centre of the Universe due to its perceived arrogance, having sucked all the life and population out of Montreal. But, oh, how the mighty have fallen indeed. Toronto would still seem to be at the centre of the universe, but for all the wrong reasons. The entire world, it seems, is having a field day with the antics… or is it the plight… of embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. He’s been lampooned on The Daily Show, on The Colbert Report, on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and on Saturday Night Live. Anthony Bourdain took a shot at him on Twitter, as has Bill Maher. The story of his boozing, doping, alleged whoring, and foul mouth are front page news just about around the globe. I honestly don’t know how Ford hasn’t cracked under the pressure (I swear I didn’t mean that as a pun). With his girth, his lifestyle, and the intense pressure of the past several weeks I was, admittedly, afraid that he’d have a massive coronary. I don’t wish that on him. I was just worried; his biggest problem, at least according to his mom, is his weight (which after this week he can no longer throw around). In any case, thanks to Ford, Toronto’s got a genuine political crisis on their hands the likes of which we haven’t seen in this country. Of have we?
Corruption is old hat. We’ve been through it to the point of distraction here in Montreal, of late. But graft and bribery in this country go back to ol’ John A. himself, with the Pacific Scandal. Influence peddling and illegal financing of the Canadian Pacific Railway eventually lead to our first prime minister’s resignation and the fall of his government. At least one editorial cartoonist at the time had a field day with it. If MacDonald wasn’t a drinker before then, he certainly had reason to become one.
We’ve only had maybe three sex scandals in Canadian history, the biggest of which was the Munsinger affair. Gerda Munsinger, the German prostitute-turned-Soviet spy slept her way through the Diefenbaker cabinet engaging in who knows what kind of pillow talk. Our then Minister of National Defence quietly took the fall and resigned.
The closest we have come to anything resembling the Ford fiasco was in 1984 when New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield was charged with pot possession. The queen was in town, for God’s sake! The pot was actually stashed on her plane!! Hatfield, who was known for surviving political scandal –a cat with 9 lives is how one news reporter had described him- was acquitted. But then the following year there were allegations that he’d had a drug party at his home, smoking pot and snorting cocaine with two university students. The story is documented, but had never been proven. Apparently there were no photos or videos of Hatfield and his homies. But that was a different time, wasn’t it?
What was Ford’s undoing? Was it his behaviour? Or was it the videos and photos that did him in? Presumably, the drinking, the impaired driving, the drug consumption, had all occurred not only in the past two years, but in the past 13 years since he’d entered politics, first as a city councillor. And in that time he seemed to be getting things done, at least enough to garner him a fair chunk of support in the election that made him mayor. And as mayor, again, he seemed to be getting things done. But now, are we witnessing Ford’s life crashing down around him? Is this indeed the end of his political career?
Ford has been stripped of just about every mayoral power he’d enjoyed, and is left with little more than the title. But he is steadfastly standing his ground like a stubborn mule, digging in his heels as Toronto council puts all of their weight behind him. Not to support him, but to gruntingly push him out of the door (in fact, I’ll be surprised if he hasn’t resigned or been otherwise deposed by the time this goes to press). He has shown that he will definitely not go gentle. The news media in Richard Nixon’s time may not have had the president to kick around anymore, but the news media now certainly have a few last licks kicking around for Ford. And he’ll take them, apparently, and go kicking and screaming himself, through the council chamber (where, like the proverbial bull in a china shop, he let his temper get the better of him, took a run at hecklers, and nearly knocked down Councillor Pam McConnell). He kicked and screamed his way into the studios of Sun News where he’s just launched his new TV talk show Ford Nation. He’ll kick and scream into the next mayoral election campaign. And if he’s as crazy as he appears to be, we may one day see him in a race for the highest office in the land. And by that I don’t mean he’ll be driving a car really fast to get high at his desk. He wouldn’t be the first prime minister with substance abuse issues. And he certainly won’t be the last.