First in Canada and now in the wider world, Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford is something of a celebrity. Over the course of a few years, he’s been at the centre of high-profile scandals both in and outside council chambers that, for any other political figure, could call for either a resignation or impeachment. But that hasn’t stopped Ford for running for reelection in 2014, and engaging in debates verging on screaming matches which are – like so much Mr. Ford does – incredibly uncomfortable to watch.
When we think of a political figure, what usually comes to mind is leadership, diplomacy, professionalism, personality, and a little charm. However, Mayor Rob Ford, as so many have pointed out, seems to embody the complete opposite of those desirable traits. It’s not only that he’s unflinchingly straightforward, and seems to have little regard for a little thing called tact. It’s also, much more worryingly, the reports that suggest issues with alcohol and even drugs.
Like it or not, though, Rob Ford isn’t going anywhere quite yet. The world at large – and especially the internet’s meme-makers – can’t help but reluctantly enjoy watching Ford’s unpredictable and often wildly inappropriate behaviour. Despite his run-ins with controversy that would daunt anyone, let alone a mayor, he still maintains that he has done more good for Toronto than harm. As he often says, he’s not perfect. Nobody is. But are his questionable activities excusable?
That’s for the residents of Toronto to decide when they vote on October 27th. For now, the race is in full swing, and there’s no telling what might happen. For Toronto’s population, Ford’s blunders might have a more personal intrigue but for an international audience, this list of faux pas by the Mayor of Toronto will at least prove amusing! Reported from sources including CBC, Huffington Post, National Post, and other reputable Canadian publications, we take a look at some of the most questionable actions of a larger-than-life mayor.
5. Abusing Alcohol
In March of last year, three city councillors came forward with concerns that Rob Ford may have had a drinking problem. With candid videos and photographs all over the printed and digital news media, the Mayor was under scrutiny from the general public, too, for his relationship with alcohol. In some of those clips, the Mayor can be seen speaking with a slur, falling down, and behaving erratically, even making threats. It may have started at the Garrison Ball when Councillor Paul Ainslie wrote an email stating that a number of people approached Ford with concerns that he was drunk. In conjunction with Ainslie’s statements, Councillor Joe Mihevc has reported that he has seen the Mayor exhibiting behaviour that may suggest the problem warrants measures as extreme as rehab or, at least, some form of treatment. During a press conference, Ford was angry with media for spreading “lies” about his alleged alcohol abuse and vehemently denied all allegations that he has a drinking problem or that he is an alcoholic.
4. Conflict of Interest
When a part of a council or governing body, there are certain by-laws you must adhere to at all times. That includes removing yourself from matters where there may be a conflict of interest. Rob Ford came under fire when Toronto’s integrity commissioner recommended that the mayor reimburse donations he had procured for his charity. According to the commissioner, Rob Ford had improperly used Toronto’s letterhead, city resources, and his position on council to fundraise for donations to help a local pee-wee football team. Eventually, Ford was ordered to pay back about $3000 in funds and be removed from office; however, this order was overturned in a court appeal. Clayton Ruby, the prosecuting lawyer, attempted to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada but the request for an appeal was refused. Rob Ford was finally cleared of all conflict-of-interest charges.
3. Racial Insensitivity
According to many, including official police documents, Rob Ford has been accused of making racially insensitive remarks and offensively racist comments. In one police report, Ford allegedly threw business cards at a taxi driver, made foolish, fake-language sounds and referred to the driver as a “Paki.” In December of 2013, Ford also made statements in city hall in regards to the the Washington Redskins, an American football team, declaring that it would be ridiculous to change the name to anything else. Many have interpreted this as representative of Ford’s racial insensitivity, considering that the term “redskin” has often been used throughout history as a derogatory term to refer to Native people. Some years earlier, in 2008, when Ford was still only a councillor, he spoke at city hall saying that “those oriental people work like dogs.” In regard to Asians, he also said: “They work their hearts out. They are workers non-stop. They sleep beside their machines. That’s why they’re successful in life … I’m telling you, the Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over.” Later, council forced him to apologize for statements they considered to be derogatory and highly offensive. Although Ford may have been attempting to ‘compliment’ those of Asian descent, the comments clearly demonstrated a huge lack of political correctness – worrying, in a political leader.
2. Alleged Sexual Harassment
When you think it can’t get worse for the Toronto mayor, he’s accused of sexual harassment. Sarah Thompson, a past mayoral candidate, made allegations through Facebook comments that Rob Ford had made “suggestive comments” and “groped” her at a political event they were attending. On Rob Ford’s weekly radio show, he told the public that although he posed for a few photographs with Thompson, he never did any of the things she said. Reacting to Thompson’s claim that he said he wanted to perform oral sex on her, Ford told reporters: “I’ve never said that in my life to her. I would never do that. I’m happily married. I’ve got more than enough to eat at home.”
1. Admitting to Using Crack Cocaine
Alcohol is one thing – like any country, Canada loves their beer and spirits – but crack cocaine is a whole other story. In late 2013, Ford admitted to using crack cocaine within the last two years. Not long before, the online journalists at Gawker reported to having seen a video of Ford smoking crack cocaine from a pipe. Since then, the Chief of Toronto Police reported that indeed such a video existed and was in the possession of the police. Still, Ford has not seen the video – as he told Jimmy Kimmel earlier this month when he was a guest on his talk show.
When making his statement to the media, Ford admitted that he did not even remember the circumstances of his use. He claimed while he did not remember using the crack cocaine, he has used it in the past. Despite the shocking behaviour of Ford throughout the years, including his admitted use and possession of an illegal substance, Toronto’s council has no power to impeach him, and the Provincial government refuses to step in. “I am not going to quit or take a leave,” Ford told reporters. For now, it seems the unlikely notorious celebrity is a man of his word.