Rob Ford: been there, done that

Bob Wakeham
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There have been several ways in which I’ve found myself observing the Rob Ford circus in Toronto — that three-ring spectacle that has captivated the country, if not much of North America — and even dislodged the other mainland train wreck, the Senate scandal, from its position on front pages and as the lead story on newscasts across Canada. 

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is followed by a trail of reporters after he received a flu shot in Toronto. — Photo by The Canadian Press

There has been, naturally enough, an entertainment component, with the leading characters, the rotund Ford brothers, Rob and Doug, playing out roles that even “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” would have a hard time creating. These guys are so over the top they could frustrate even the very best of satirists. “How can you make this stuff up?” is the commonly heard rhetorical question.

I realize one isn’t supposed to giggle at the sights and sounds of the disintegration of a politician in front of one’s very own eyes, but I (and I know I’m far from being alone here) couldn’t help myself during the first days of the Ford fiasco. And I couldn’t wait each evening to see what U.S. comedians and the hosts of the late-night talk shows were saying about the crack-

smoking mayor of Canada’s best known city. (You wouldn’t know but Ford was an American, one of them quipped.)

Then there was a certain smugness that I allowed to kick in, the same sort of feeling I got when

Newfoundland became a “have” province, and Ontario became one of the country’s beggar boys, a provincial version of Oliver Twist.

As I looked at poor old Ford sweating up a storm while being hounded by a pack of journalistic vultures and lying through his teeth about his doping and drinking, I couldn't help but think of all those Torontonians over the years who mocked everything about this province, told Newfie jokes left, right and centre, who are now being laughed at and mocked for having elected a buffoon, a cartoon character, to represent them. Looks good on ya, b’ys, I thought to myself.

And as a journalist, I did, I have to once again admit, envy the media horde as they embraced the Ford story 24/7. Sure, I was somewhat embarrassed as the reporters, representatives of my racket, swooped in on the forlorn Ford, flapping their buzzard wings and shouting questions for the sake of hearing themselves speak, knowing no answers would be forthcoming. But, hey, I’d be there bawling out questions, too. It would be hard to resist; it’s just too damn juicy.

And, of course, there’s that

part of human nature that also enveloped my psyche, that of somehow taking great pleasure in watching the high and mighty come

tumbling down. It’s not one of humankind’s most laudable qualities, but there is an undeniable satisfaction most get when the powerful, especially politicians, fall in disgrace from their pedestal.

Ultimately, though, I started to observe Rob Ford, this past week especially, a bit differently, with a certain amount of sadness, even empathy.

And that’s largely due to the fact that I’ve been there; been where Ford is now, spiralling out of control. 

Straight up (so to speak): I’m an alcoholic, a drunk.

As a matter of fact, I couldn’t help but wonder that if those mini-video gadgets that seem to be in everyone’s pockets these days had been around when I was drinking up a storm in St. John’s years ago, there would have been some mortifying recordings of me making a holy show of myself. I’m not going to engage in a drunkalogue here, but suffice to say those videos of Ford threatening to take someone’s head off and smoking crack are pretty tame compared to some of the antics I pulled off while “inebriated,” to use the mayor’s sanitized word for being drunk.

That doesn’t mean I feel sorry for Rob Ford. Far from it, in fact.

You shouldn’t be cut some slack because you happen to have a disease, happen to have an addiction. It still boils down to recognizing the addiction, seeking help and then working like a dog to get and stay sober.

The toughest thing I ever did in my life was quit drinking. It was pure hell. I was giving up something I craved, I needed, I wanted, and something my body and mind had to have. Plus, I loved it. And the lifestyle that went with it.   

Beer was my favourite lover. But it turned on me. The way booze or crack cocaine, or both, have turned on Rob Ford.                                                                                                                               

But he’s not to be pitied; it’s up to him to deal with the problem.    

And it’s up to his employers, his friends, his loved ones, to play tough.

Keep coddling Ford — let him believe, for instance, that there’s nothing inappropriate about him signing Rob Ford bobblehead dolls while smack dab in the midst of this self-destructive mess — and he’ll keep drinking and doping. 

In my case, I was fired. My career was in tatters.

That had to happen, and it was an important step in the process I had to go through as I was forced to deal with my boozing.

Only one step, mind you, one of many I had to take, or to have forced on me. But an important step nevertheless.

Similarly, Ford’s tenure as mayor should be brought to an end. 

That would be the best thing to happen to Toronto at this point.

But, equally important, it would be the best thing to happen to Rob Ford.


Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, U.S., Canada Ontario Toronto

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Recent comments

  • blame nfld blame marg delahunty
    November 19, 2013 - 13:37

    havent been same since our great ambassador Marge; blind sided him in the driveway; that was begining of his downfall No doubt about it

  • Brenda Fay
    November 16, 2013 - 10:10

    Great article, Bob.

  • Brenda Cottreau
    November 16, 2013 - 05:54

    Just like to add....the senate looked like a bunch of vultures trying to get the first piece of herring.It was sad Rob never had a chance in hell.They asked the questions...he gave the answer.If he didnt answer they would want him seen nothing so gross.He told the truth. I hope that man fights his way the whole way through...I am in with him..Makes me ashamed of Canada