After a brief hiatus at the rehab clinic, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is back on the campaign trail and headed towards what will surely be a turbulent mayoral election — as is his style.
So the saga continues for RoFo the Incendiary, as merely the presence of he and his brother Doug, the country’s most over-reported celebrity pair, continues to inspire the kind of public reaction that makes national headlines.
Last Tuesday saw the Ford brothers in action at the East York Canada Day parade, a chance to shake hands with Torontonians that drew taunts and boos from onlookers heckling from the sidewalks.
While Ford supporters were out in their own numbers, it was the parade-goers who jeered and chanted “Shame!” and “Resign!” at the Fords who drew the cameras. One passerby in particular, bare-chested jogger Joe Killoran, confronted Ford on his record as mayor while reporters looked on, inspiring the hashtag #shirtlessjogger and making newscasts nationwide.
“Answer one of the million questions people have for you,” Killoran said. “People have a million questions about your lying and your corruption.”
“Answer the questions. … You’re a disgrace.”
As crowd shaming is wont to do, the heckling left the Fords visibly uncomfortable, capping an overall sour day for “Ford Nation.”
But with the mayor’s “drunken stupors,” his drug use, his lewd language (who could forget his “enough to eat at home” comment?) and his repeated racial and homophobic slurs, the crowd shaming, while uncomfortable to watch, seemed a reasonable recourse for Torontonians fed up with a mayor who refuses to step down despite so many reasons to do so.
The Ford hit list is unending. He’s been thrown out of a Leafs game after yelling at fans. He’s been photographed in front of a crack house with someone who later became a homicide victim. He’s neglected Toronto’s Pride festivities. He’s even been asked not to show up at the Santa Claus parade.
Ford’s friends at Toronto’s city hall are now few and far between. His proclivity for burning bridges has city councillors resolvedly against him, with his powers appropriated and his office turned symbolic.
Ford has been ridiculed for the comments he makes, the stumbles he takes and the substances he consumes — and even more so for the denials, rebuttals and spectacles he makes in their aftermath.
But still he holds on, much to the credit of Toronto city council’s obviously missing impeachment capabilities.
So press on the Ford brothers will, spewing comments while reporters fact-check their not-so-accurate assertions, all the while providing Jimmy Kimmel with enough laughs to fill his studio night after night.
Nobody deserves to be humiliated, but it would be fair to say many people in Toronto feel humiliated themselves, cueing the type of crowd shaming recently witnessed in East York.
Ford’s run may, in fact, be over soon, meaning reprieve for many of Toronto’s (and the country’s) beleaguered, Rob Ford-weary citizens — Forum Research polls since April have shown former MP Olivia Chow’s projected voter share leading Ford’s by at least seven points — but against all odds, Ford shows no signs of slowing down and continues delivering stump speeches and passing out “Ford Nation” flags and stickers.
But it makes me wonder what he hopes to achieve. Ford has forever lost the trust of his colleagues, of Torontonians and of Canadians in general, no matter how hard he and his campaign team push the second chance, “come to Jesus” angle they will no doubt pursue.
And he has made Toronto into the butt of jokes, needlessly stringing it along for a yearlong circus culminating in this October’s mayoral elections. He has endured, but because of a technicality barring Toronto from dumping a rotten mayor, not his own stamina (although, to his credit, it has to be noted).
Ford, no matter the outcome of October’s elections, has already lost. He has discredited himself as a leader and ridiculed his family and friends.
A come-from-behind win in October would be dramatic, but the triumph would be hollow. What is there to win?
Patrick Butler, who’s from Conception Bay South, is studying journalism at Carleton
University. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.