In the days before Christmas in Toronto, 600,000 people were without power, and tens of thousands were evacuated to make-shift warming shelters to escape temperatures colder than -15 C. Despite the huge relief effort which called in crews from Windsor and Michigan, some were without power from December 21st into early January, relying on the Premier’s disorganised gift card giveaway to help replace spoiled food.
In the midst of this disaster, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly called on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to declare a state of emergency, which would have transferred to Mr Kelly the few executive powers Mr Ford retained—the rest were stripped by council after a series of scandals that brought international attention to Toronto. Mr Ford refused, insisting that it would have created a sense of panic, a sentiment now shared by Wynne and Toronto Hydro.
So, on January 2nd, with the recovery effort just winding down, Rob Ford declared his re-election campaign, vowing “Ford more years,” declaring he’s “the best mayor [Toronto] has ever had.” Mr Ford, as politicians go, is far from theworst: he ran as a Conservative and kept most of his campaign promises, lowering taxes and reducing government spending. The primary objection of the city council, and the Toronto citizenry, is that he has admitted to committing a number of crimes while in office, and has made crude and offensive remarks on national television and to the City Council.
Mr Ford maintains that until he is charged with a crime, or deemed unfit for office, he should not be removed, and that it is ultimately the responsibility of the voters to decide whether to re-elect him. He is correct, but per his many confessions, he should be charged, and forced to face trial.
The trouble started in May 2013 when Gawker Media claimed to have seen a video of Mr Ford smoking crack cocaine, and that they could purchase it for $200,000. They raised the money, and awareness about the issue, but then lost contact with the crack dealer who was selling the video. Then, on October 31st, the Toronto Chief of Police Bill Blair announced that the police had obtained that video, and that its contents are “consistent with those reported in the press,” and a close friend of the Mayor was charged with extortion.
A few days later, despite his previous denials, Mr Ford admitted that he has “smoked crack cocaine“, and that he tried it “probably in one of [his] drunken stupors.” He made clear that he felt there was no reason to resign, while providing an admission of a complete lack of self control when drinking.
On November 13th, the police and an Ontario Superior judge released hundreds of documents with witness testimony of Mr Ford of doing Oxycotin and crack and consorting with prostitutes in restaurants and the mayor’s office. He was also accused of driving drunk, smoking marijuana and having staffers bring him bottles of alcohol at all hours of the night. Before City Council, Mr Ford admitted to purchasing illicit drugs while Mayor, and proposed mandatory drug testing for all councillors—a move he thought would prove that drug use is more prolific than most believe—prompting laughter. The City Council then stripped him of most of his powers.
In addition, pundits and citizens want Mr Ford removed for how he handled the allegations. As well as lying about his usage on multiple occasions, a video was released where Mr. Ford angrily pledged to “kill that f—ing guy” and he was later shown swearing again, this time in front of children, on US news networks as he complained about the media’s hounding of him.
Amid allegations of sexually harassing civil servants, Rob Ford made the now infamous ‘I have more than enough to eat home‘ statement, prompting Canadian broadcasters to introduce a seven second delay to all his recorded comments. Mr Ford also mimed drink driving in Council Session, and shouted “You guys have just attacked Kuwait!” as more of his powers were stripped. The Kuwaiti press were not pleased ,and he made headlines across the world. Shortly after the vote, he accidentally tackled a female Councillor to the ground, and then heckled and taunted the citizens watching the proceedings.
In the wake of all these incidents, columnists, councillors and citizens have asked why he is still in office. Yet, the sad truth is that the police have no evidence of wrongdoing other than scattered confessions. The penalty for smoking crack wouldn’t be more than $300, his marijuana usage likely would not constitute a crime and there is no physical evidence of driving under the influence or of hiring escorts.
While he should certainly be charged with some form of misdemeanour for his confessions, and forced to pay whichever associated penalties, if the police do not have sufficient evidence to warrant charging him with a felony, the media and citizenry should not either.
Ms Wynne, the Ontario Premier, has the ability to remove Mr Ford from office, and pundits have accused her of not removing him to shame the Conservative party, and ensure a Liberal mayor in the next election.
Yet, for all of Mr Ford’s buffoonery, degrading remarks, and deviant behaviour, he handled the ice storm in a dignified manner, and still enjoys support from a plurality of voters. Mr Ford should probably resign, or at least seek treatment for his problems, and he should certainly be charged with drug usage. But, despite being sidelined, he proved himself fully capable as Toronto’s mayor.
These days we seem to get too caught up in personality politics, whether our leaders seem like someone we’d have a beer with, or whether they inspire some kind of national pride. Rob Ford may be an international joke, but he is still the mayor of Toronto, and he should not be removed from office except by voters or the police.
Instead he should be able to focus on why he was elected in the first place: helping the people of Toronto.