How could 383,501 voters have gotten it so wrong?

By Pat Watson Wednesday November 28 2012 in Opinion
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To quote Dickens, after the Argos’ Grey Cup victory and Rob Ford’s public disgrace, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”


To borrow another, this time to paraphrase recently defeated U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, I wish Rob Ford had done well as mayor of Toronto, because if Ford had done well it would have meant Toronto was doing well.


In Ford’s parallel universe the lefties have vowed to make him a one-term mayor.


Riding a wave of approval after receiving 383,501 mostly suburban votes two years ago, Ford had a narrow vision for what he wanted to do as mayor and got that done in short order. So it’s possible to see the felled trees inside Ford’s forest of personal mayhem. Under Ford pressure, contracts with unionized city inside and outside workers came in low. He cut that vehicle registration tax and got garbage management west of Yonge privatized. But is it worth the savings to have the garbage that used to be picked up before 8 a.m. now sitting on the sidewalks sometimes well into the afternoon?


We know Ford’s vision. It had everything to do with cutting spending and taxes. And, compulsively repeating the words “gravy” and “taxpayers” like some kind of brain tic.


After Ford did the things he set out to do and flunked out on the “subways, subways, subways” mission, he went off to do what he enjoys, which is to coach football. The fact that he was also helping some young men was “gravy” and makes a nice ace in his political deck of cards. Ford likes handing out his cards.


Ford has been characterized by Justice Charles Hackland as showing willful blindness in breaking conflict of interest rules; not to mention belligerence. Yet, a good portion of the 383,501 who voted for Ford would vote for him again. They are willing to overlook that what this man really needs more than to run for mayor again is to find a priest or spiritual councillor or some other kind of life coach and sort himself out. We can stop calling them voters or “taxpayers” and start calling them enablers.


Ford has always been an outlier at Toronto City Council and is like those individuals who consider themselves above and beyond the realm of other mortals. His ego is out-sized. It’s not that much of what he does is so outlandish along the spectrum of these types of characters; it’s that he is in a public position that calls for a different skill set.


If you are going to have the kind of ego that sends you into thinking and acting as if you have privilege that surpasses the rest of the world – Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, Conrad Black – then at least compensate by having the skills to manage as a leader if you choose that role. (See Arnold Schwarzenegger). Ford has the ego and sense of entitlement, but no political leadership skills and seemingly no realistic sense of what the job of mayor entails.


As questionable as some of the outlandish Mel Lastman’s actions were when he was mayor – he will never live down that cannibalism gaffe – he had some ideas that caught the city’s imagination. Be they moose or street corner parties.


Ford needs an internal reordering. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that his allies converged at his home for an intervention, to shock him into taking an objective look at the man in the mirror?


For those who need that kind of mirroring treatment, the repair work that follows could take years. But of course, the first step is to admit you need help, and so far Ford has not arrived at the point of having an earnest willingness to begin the work to shake off his demons.


The world wants Ford to be okay, but none of us can want it more for him than he needs to want it for himself. The universe is sending Ford a message and that message is “get help.” The question is will he ever heed it?


A note on football and mayors…


Sometimes certain themes just take over the airwaves. No, not “Gangnam Style”. The Toronto Argos’ (Aaarrrgoooos) Grey Cup victory was practically overshadowed by Toronto’s hot mess: football coach-cum-mayor Rob Ford. But Ford can take a number behind the mayors of Montreal, Laval, Winnipeg, London and Mississauga.


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