Never a dull moment in Toronto’s City Hall these days, is there? By now everyone knows that Rob Ford’s career is quite possibly the worst train wreck in Canadian political history. What is perhaps less understood by the general public are the ties between the Harper gang running the country and the Ford brothers in Hog town (somehow the old nickname just seems that much more fitting right now).
Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty nearly broke down in tears last week at a press conference when a journalist asked him whether he had any advice for this old friend of the family. He said simply that he hoped the man got help ( I think we’re past the point of AA meetings here, Jimbo).
Of course, Tories are all heart when it comes to their own. Whereas when we’re talking about the unfortunate souls addicted to heroin who count on safe injection sites all over the country, they have no patience and will again try and thwart any attempt to provide this type of harm reduction during this session of Parliament.
Other members of the Harper government were less sympathetic towards Ford, but none of them were willing to go as far as to call for the Mayor to turn in his official necklace and do the city, country and office he’s repeatedly disgraced with his various drunken shenanigans, a massive favour by quitting. This is a far cry from Harper’s infamous 2011 BBQ footage in which he praised Ford for cleaning up the previous administration’s “mess” created by Mayor David Miller, loosely affiliated with the NDP (Ah yes. Remember when Toronto’s biggest problem was a garbage strike?) .
The reasons for the measured criticisms are clear: “Ford Nation” suburbanites, many of whom inexplicably still back the Mayor, are largely found in the same 905 area code ridings that are critical to any Conservative victory in the next Federal Election. The Fords were staunch Harper allies in the last election and the Mayor’s shady brother Doug Ford has mused openly about running for the Tories in the upcoming election (presumably on some sort of tough on drug crime platform).
Obvious political and personal hypocrisy notwithstanding, there is also the fact that “Fordzilla”(as one wag on twitter dubbed him) is currently a lame duck Mayor whose personal problems are preventing him from governing the most populous and still most economically important city in Canada. This is as much a crisis in leadership and administration as it is a tragicomedy media circus playing out before an international audience.
Although the solution to the current crisis in Toronto is being debated, the answer may lie in the resolution reached by the Quebec government during the Vaillancourt scandal in which the gangster (this is the technical term used in his indictment) Mayor of Laval was removed from office. In that instance, the city was effectively run by a panel of three technocrats appointed by the provincial government until municipal elections were held, on November 3rd. This might not be the most democratic option for the Wynn government in Ontario but it remains a viable path forward.
It’s time for Federal Tories (especially those representing the Greater Toronto Area) to set aside their talking points and their election strategy book, grow some spine and join the rest of their fellow elected representatives of all stripes in denouncing the Mayor and calling for his immediate resignation.
* Top image by designwallah via Flickr, used under Creative Commons