By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor
Will the real Rob Ford please stand up!
On Tuesday we saw the mayor as we have never seen him before, apologizing profusely (and really seeming to mean it) following the recent decision by a local judge to remove him from office over conflict of interest charges.
Just a few weeks ago, though, we also saw him as belligerent as ever – as always – claiming the path of righteousness.
So, which is the real Rob Ford? My guess is that it is not last Tuesday’s Ford.
It is not that I don’t believe he was sincere – and sincerely sorry – mostly for getting caught up in all this mess, but he doesn’t strike me as someone to whom apologizing comes easily.
Initially, Ford (and his big brother, Councillor Doug) blamed the lefties on council for the mayor’s problems. So too, did their enablers/supporters/fans/apologists in the local right wing media.
That was so wrong.
As lawyer Clayton Ruby, who brought the charges against Ford to court on behalf of a local taxpayer, said: “Ford did this to Ford.”
It is true that the mayor has not had an easy time of it at council most of these past two years as he seemed to be constantly under attack by the left. But that’s politics. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
And Ford did bring most of it on himself.
Ford was elected two years and a month ago by one of the largest margins this city has ever seen. That was a big deal. In spite of all the naysayers, he won large. I would think that would be humbling. But not Ford and brother Doug who also won Ford’s old seat in Etobicoke and entered council for the first time.
They labelled their supporters Ford Nation and wielded that supposed power base as a club against their perceived foes, even, at one point, threatening the Premier of the province to unleash Ford Nation on him.
It was the behaviour of someone who found himself with power and didn’t know how to use it effectively.
The one and only time I met Ford was at the viewing for the deceased daughter of my friend, Dr. Odida Quamina. It was just before the election and when I saw him come in I wondered if it was an election gimmick. Politicians are like that.
But, not Ford. He just stood there by himself. So I decided to go speak with him. I didn’t introduce myself. I just wanted to make him feel welcome.
I did ask him about the election and if he thought he would get the support of council if he won and he said he did. Actually, he was right, at least for the first year or so.
But the reason Ford was at the viewing is that the deceased was the mother of one of his “boys”, one of the players on the football team he coaches. And he seemed more interested in telling me how good the lad was as a player than he was about talking politics.
I always remembered that encounter whenever I saw him on the television news with his team. That is when he seemed the happiest.
I believe Ford was also happy as a councillor, helping his constituents and returning their phone calls promptly. I would think that most people liked the way he saved money. The fact that he didn’t spend his city hall budget, choosing rather to use his own finances, would have endeared him to many.
Fact is, most councillors are not able to do as such since they are not as well off as he is. And this could have helped to widen the divide between him and some of them. That might be O.K. as a councillor, but as mayor one needs to build bridges and form coalitions.
Ford and brother Doug have been talking of taking their case to the people since it is the people who elected them. The people, however, only get to have a say every four years. The next election is two years away, unless there is a by-election to fill his vacated seat (if his appeal for a stay of the judge’s order is denied) and if he is allowed to run.
The lesson the Fords needed to learn is that they needed to be able to find common ground with fellow councillors and ease up on the bullying. And that laws are there for a reason…and they apply to everyone, even the leaders of Ford Nation.