You’ve heard of the discontent 99 per cent. Well, among the 53 per cent who didn’t vote for Rob Ford back in 2010 there is a chorus who rage over his every indiscretion. Yet, all he ever wanted to do was make his politician father proud.
Ford earned a reputation as an outsider on City Council in the decade that he represented Etobicoke North as councillor, but residents there were faithful to him because they could call him anytime and he would run to their rescue to deal with a garbage pile up or to make sure a pothole was filled.
Word is that Ford is very good at that kind of thing. As Toronto’s mayor, he knows how to make sure graffiti gets removed from walls and alleyways as well.
But something is going unsaid in all this festering outrage among a certain sector regarding every Ford misstep. It’s about who Ford is.
We can measure the content of the man’s character but Ford did not run on his character. He did not present himself as a paragon of virtue and smooth of tongue.
Ford makes an easy target for snobs. Despite his family’s immense wealth, his abruptness only adds to the grounds for snobbery. We aren’t really used to plain speaking politicians. We say that’s what we want, but here he is, and it’s really jarring. Of course it could just be the brusqueness with which he minimizes every criticism.
Or we can look at what he has been able to accomplish by measuring it against what he promised to do. Back in 2010 he promised taxpayers’ money wouldn’t be wasted on “gravy”. He said he would get us subways, which is what the residents of this city, especially those living on the peripheries, called for. And are still calling for. He said he would cancel the vehicle registration tax.
The media image of him is of a boorish, self-centred, disrespectful bully who lives his sense of entitlement to the hilt. So if all there is to go on is the picture of him painted by reporters – and let’s be honest, thanks to his many foibles, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel – there is precious little to like.
By now, we all know the stories: Ford flipping the bird at a mother and child after the mother chided him for driving while using his mobile phone (it’s illegal in this city to do so); Ford reading documents while driving, then brushing aside reporters’ questions about it; Ford leaving important policy meetings to coach his high school football teams; co-opting staff into his coaching activities; soliciting funds for his football teams from lobbyists; Ford or Ford operatives removing minority hiring criteria for plum jobs; Ford calling for doing away with positions that are in place to ensure the integrity of City Council. Then the latest where his name is linked to the fiasco in which transit users were kicked off two TTC buses during rush hour to make them available for his football team. Et cetera. In a few days some new head-shaker will be added.
But where does it say in the job description that you have to be suave? Yet, many in this city demand more than political manoeuvres from our city leaders; they also want personal substance and apparently savoir-faire. Ford ain’t it.
If all you care about is that taxes will be kept to a minimum, that some taxes will be cut, or that public transit workers won’t have the leeway to drop everything for a wildcat strike, then Ford should make you happy. But if you’re about image, and how this city with one of the largest populations and one of the largest budgets in the country is viewed viv-a-vis its top elected official, then you might consider Ford something of an embarrassment. And judging from the blistering rhetoric, embarrassment is putting it mildly.
Spoiler alert: Ford is not about to change, not unless he experiences some kind of “road to Damascus” conversion.
A note about time…
Switching the clock back isn’t the comfort it used to be. These days we only have about 16 weeks of normal time in this time zone. It takes that long to get used to the change and then we’re back (or forward) at it again.