“Yes, I’ve smoked crack cocaine.”
So there we have it. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford finally admitted Tuesday morning that he has used crack cocaine. His admission, after months of controversy and denial of drug use following reports by U.S. website Gawker and the Toronto Star of the existence of a video allegedly showing Ford smoking crack, came five days after Police Chief Bill Blair announced at a news conference that the police have retrieved a copy of the video.
A couple of hours after the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, launched a distraction assault on Blair for expressing “disappointment” at what he viewed on the video, Ford stood in front of his office at City Hall and made his admission before a cluster of reporters. Heightening the drama, a few hours later he came back with another apology and a promise to change his behaviour, but insisted that he will not take a leave of absence or resign.
Now, the rest of Toronto City Council – Ford’s detractors and the few who still support the mayor – are left to deal with the unhealthy atmosphere created by this circus act that has engrossed us for much of the past six months.
It must be emphasized, though, that Ford has not actually been charged with a crime and, as such, cannot be removed from office. In spite of his revelations, he can continue in his job as mayor. The question is whether his fellow councillors would work with him. Some, even on his executive committee, have expressed reservations. For others, who have opposed his every move from Day One, it would be business as usual.
Would ‘Ford Nation’ – Ford’s electoral supporters – continue to stand by their man? Following Blair’s statement last week that Ford was indeed seen in the video, his poll numbers went up five points. What has mattered most to them was that Ford held down spending at City Hall and fulfilled many of his election promises. He has saved the city millions of dollars. He got rid of the vehicle registration tax, made public transit an essential service, thus preventing labour strikes, contracted out garbage disposal for half the city and held down increases in city worker contracts. And, recently, there has been agreement among city councillors to go ahead with a subway line in Scarborough – seen as a win for Ford.
What so far has mattered less was their man being seen in proximity to activities around the infamous video that include extortion, and that one of the persons he was photographed with in front of a crack house in Etobicoke was later murdered.
Ford has also enjoyed sympathy from those who feel he is being persecuted by the media. But with his constant denials, public drunkenness and irresponsible behaviour, he has betrayed public trust and made a mockery of the integrity of the office. As the figurehead for Canada’s largest city, he has become an international joke, which is why every newspaper in this city has called for him to step aside.
The least he needs to do now is take a leave of absence to attend to his personal issues. He missed a great opportunity Tuesday to announce that he would take a couple of months off. That would have taken a lot of the pressure off of him. It would have removed him from the constant public scrutiny and allowed him to come back after a period of reflection and, hopefully, healing.
The double standard employed in this entire debacle by police has not been lost on us. Police raids in Etobicoke in June in the area of the now infamous crack house which the mayor was alleged to frequent created upheaval in the lives of many in that community.
Officers from 17 police agencies making up 42 tactical teams swept in and arrested 44 people after which more than 220 charges were laid. This raid rocked the Somali community and has been criticized for excessive use of force. Yet, police surveillance in the same general area in which the mayor was observed on more than one occasion receiving packages from a known drug dealer, was not investigated. If that had been any two Black persons, the police would have deemed such activity as reasonable grounds for search or possibly arrest.
One thing for sure, they would have known what was in those packages.