I opened up The Corner this morning, saw the sweaty, porcine features of beleaguered Toronto Conservative Rob Ford, the most famous Canadian politician in America since Pierre Trudeau, at the top of the page, and naturally clicked. I must say Michael Taube is being awfully po-faced (to use a Britishism) about the whole business.
As I told this interviewer in Calgary the other day, in an ideal world I would rather not have a crackhead mayor – but on the other hand he joins a pothead national Liberal Party leader and a cokehead Quebec separatist leader, not to mention a since beatified Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition caught by Toronto police during a raid on a “happy ending” massage parlor. Such is life in a land of long winters.
As for the so-called death-threat video, that seems to be a rather obvious intentional impersonation of Hulk Hogan, carried off with a certain brio. Given that Trudeau’s most famous and supposedly amusing party piece was pirouetting behind the Queen’s back, I’d say Ford’s the one to bet on for those longeurs over the Victoria Day weekend.
With that out of the way, Michael Taube’s piece makes clear that the real problem for most Canadian liberals with the headline “Rob Ford Smokes Crack” is not the “smokes crack” part but, now as ever, the “Rob Ford” part. Unfortunately, Michael is not a Canadian liberal but a Canadian conservative, and a former speechwriter for Stephen Harper. Yet he writes:
Ford’s antics have also turned Toronto, the fourth-largest city in North America, into a laughingstock, which could put the city’s economic viability at risk if this gong show continues for much longer.
Toronto’s very “economic viability” could be at risk! Seriously? But apparently Mr Taube means it: The town hasn’t been this unviable since the War of 1812, when the Yanks sailed in and burned it to the ground. L’état économique, c’est moi. The self-importance of the political class captured in that sentence is not only a far bigger threat to “economic viability” but, in fact, the reason Ford was elected in the first place.
The rest of Mr Taube’s litany of complaints is so-called “gaffes” by Ford about various identity groups. Most of them are somewhat bluntly formulated but true-ish enough, and said by ordinary unmonitored citizens with nary a thought: Ladies, lessen your chances of Aids by sleeping with fewer bi-guys, etc. The notion that they’re so “over the top” as to disqualify someone from office is deeply damaging to the very idea of representative government. It requires that the political class speak only within the ever tightening bounds of an effete antiseptic “public discourse” ever more removed from the people they govern, and ever more exclusionary of ever larger numbers of them. It turns the rulers into a class apart. In London, one of the great contributions to democratic health of my old boss Boris Johnson, now the city’s mayor, has been to demonstrate that a man can have decades of supposedly damaging soundbites about almost every approved identity group, and it doesn’t matter.
So vote against Ford for the crack, but not for the cracks.
Full disclosure: Rob Ford was elected in 2010 by defeating George Smitherman, a gay Liberal whose children’s full-time babysitter is my bête noire Barbara Hall, former Toronto mayor and current Chairperson of the Ontario “Human Rights” Commission. No member of Toronto’s governing class would hire Rob Ford to sit his kids. But, for some of us, the ease with which the city’s leadership moves from mayor to babysitter is rather more telling.