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The Excoriation of John Barber by a Soured Rob Ford


The above video—not safe for work unless you’re using headphones—was shot by the late Peter Walker and is a clip from Min Sook Lee’s documentary Hogtown: The Politics of Policing (winner of the best Canadian feature prize at Hot Docs 2005). Uploaded to YouTube fewer than three weeks ago, it’s been passed around online over the last few days, since being linked to by Toronto Life‘s Philip Preville in a Friday blog post.
The footage appears to have been taken during a break in City Council’s meeting of Thursday, June 24, 2004. The preceding Monday the 21st, the Toronto Police Services Board had voted not to renew the contract of then-Toronto Police Chief (now OPP Chief) Julian Fantino. The thing is, the vote occurred in a closed session, and they didn’t reveal that it had taken place until Thursday, which gave the media an opportunity to confront Councillor and then-TPSB member Case Ootes in the Council Chambers. Momentarily doubting the accepted wisdom that Ootes had voted in favour of the renewal (which he had), the press—acting on a tip from Rob Ford—grilled Ootes as to how he actually voted.


Unidentified reporter: “So is it true that you voted against him?”
Ootes: “I’m not gonna tell you how I voted.”
(At this point, it’s worth noting that Ootes can’t legally reveal how he or anyone else voted.)
Globe and Mail columnist John Barber: “You told Rob Ford.”
Ootes: “No, I didn’t. No, Rob Ford made an assumption.”
Barber: “He said, he said that you told him. He said, ‘Case Ootes told me.’”
2008_3_31Fantino.jpg After reaffirming his support for the chief and repeatedly denying he had divulged anything, Ootes states that “Rob Ford made his own conclusion.”
Barber then turns to Ford and asks him point blank, “Did he tell you or no?”
Ford clarifies, “He didn’t tell me how he voted, he didn’t tell me anything, I put one and one together, it was very straightforward—”
Barber: “Well, why did you tell us that he told you?”
Ford: “I asked these guys, I said, Case Ootes, from what I know, voted in favour of the chief. And as far as I know, he did.”
Things get tense, as Barber resents being embarrassed by having been taken in by Ford. “What is true: what you’re saying now, or what you’re saying then?”
Barber turns away in frustration and then back to Ford. At 1:04 in the video, he shouts at Ford “Answer the question!” Watching his mouth movements, however, it’s clear that the sentence concludes with three additional words that he neglects to speak out loud (or that at least were quiet enough to not be captured by the microphone).
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who is Ford’s mortal enemy (e.g. the famed “Gino boy”) but also was leader of the “Keep the Chief” campaign and no fan of Barber’s, calls out Barber on his low blow. The rest of the video can’t be done justice in words.
Suffice it to say, this is an incident that should have been included in the Rob Ford canon but somehow flew under the radar of most City Hall watchers until now, save perhaps for a brief allusion made by Ford in the Eye Weekly cover story about him.
After having pieced together what did in fact happen at the TPSB meeting, John Barber opened his subsequent column (Saturday, June 26, 2004) thusly: “Nobody pushed Police Chief Julian Fantino out of his job. Instead, he took matters into his own hands: He jumped. And, unlike the handful of goons on council who thought they could rescue him by smearing their own excrement on the walls of City Hall, he did it with style.”
Asked by Torontoist if she would care to comment on the clip’s newfound, out-of-context popularity, Lee replies, “As for Ford: the clip says it all.”
Photo of Fantino by hc916 from the Torontoist Flickr Pool. Thanks to Reel Asian‘s Chris Chin and Deanna Wong for identifying the source of the clip.

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