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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.


  • David Topping

    As I said in the comments on Spacing Toronto last night when they published the video (though, curiously, my comment has never shown up on their site [edit: now it has!]), this video is amazingly embarrassing—not just for Ford, but for Barber. Ford picked a fight, and Barber took the bait.

  • rek

    They can’t talk about how they vote? Shouldn’t we have a record of how our representatives, er, represent us?

  • David E

    I wonder if this portion of the meeting where the vote took place was an in-camera portion and hence not allowed to be discussed in public.
    Certain matters are in-camera. Maybe someone out there knows if this whole affair was in-camera and spilled out into the chambers.
    By the way, John Barber has been covering city matters for longer than Ford has had a council seat. Guess which one is better at the job?

  • Marc Lostracco

    I’m not meaning to reinforce the “Gino boy” stereotype, but Mammoliti is right out of a Sopranos episode in this clip.

  • Jonathan Goldsbie

    The particular portion of the TPSB meeting during which Fantino’s contract was discussed was held in camera.
    Section 35(4) of the Police Services Act allows that:

    (4) The board may exclude the public from all or part of a meeting or hearing if it is of the opinion that,

    (a) matters involving public security may be disclosed and, having regard to the circumstances, the desirability of avoiding their disclosure in the public interest outweighs the desirability of adhering to the principle that proceedings be open to the public; or

    (b) intimate financial or personal matters or other matters may be disclosed of such a nature, having regard to the circumstances, that the desirability of avoiding their disclosure in the interest of any person affected or in the public interest outweighs the desirability of adhering to the principle that proceedings be open to the public. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.15, s. 35.

    As reported in the Star, the Board’s statement on the Thursday said:
    “The board, at its meeting of June 21, 2004, decided not to renew the employment agreement of Toronto police Chief Julian Fantino beyond its termination date of March, 2005.
    “This decision was made during an in-camera portion of the board meeting, as required under Section 35(4) of the Police Services Act. As this is a personal (sic) matter, the board will not be making any further comment….”
    I assume the “(sic)” was the Star erroneously assuming that they meant to say “personnel.” But based on my reading of that section of the Act, it seems that the Board was not, in fact, required to go in camera.

  • Jonathan Goldsbie

    “Maybe someone out there knows if this whole affair was in-camera and spilled out into the chambers.”
    Well, yes, three days later. That’s pretty much what I say in the post.

  • dowlingm

    “he did it with style.”
    Something we now know John Barber lacks.

  • barold

    that was straight out of a schoolyard.

  • SpupEh

    Thanks for the props, Jonathan! The credit really goes to Reel Asian’s amazing Executive Director, Deanna Wong, for identifying the clip. I just passed the info along.
    As Roger Rabbit would say…”what a maROOON!”

  • Robsonian

    Ford sure does come off as a kid. Lucky for him Barber had that hugely unprofessional, and idiotic lapse in judgment, or we may have had to read about Robbie getting caught blabbing about the details of a closed session.
    I believe this clip goes a long way towards explaining why kids want to be policemen, firefighters, astronauts and cowboys, but not municipal politicians.
    Bottom of the barrel stuff.

  • ReluctantTorontonian

    I’m still new to this city, but if I never have to hear this Rob Ford character’s whiny Louie Anderson voice again, I’ll be happy.

  • Dipp

    I hope Rob Ford runs for mayor, so that the Anti-Ford YouTube incarnation of this video goes viral.

  • Jonathan Goldsbie

    Shouldn’t we have a record of how our representatives, er, represent us?”
    The TPSB was split into very clear factions at the time, so—except for what you see in the video—there was never any doubt as to how any of the members voted. Now called it the “worst kept secret” of the first half of Miller’s first term.
    In favour of renewal:
    • Councillor Case Ootes
    • Dr. Benson Lau
    • The Honourable Hugh Locke, Q.C.
    Against renewal:
    • Chair A. Milliken Heisey
    • Vice Chair and Councillor Pam McConnell
    • Councillor John Filion
    “The credit really goes to Reel Asian’s amazing Executive Director, Deanna Wong, for identifying the clip.”
    I’ll add her name to the thanks, then.

  • james a

    Rob Ford douchebaggery aside, it is kinda nice seeing John Barber put in his place. Reading his column I’ve always had this Frasier Crane image of him: Smart, but such unbelievably pompous speach/writing that it is hard to actually take it seriously even if you totally agree with the message.
    I guess he’s my Rosie Dimanno, I’ve pretty much stopped reading his column when I get to the TO section these days cause it just leaves me frustrated.

  • Doggiez

    Actually, “What a Maroon!” was Bugs Bunny.

  • dowlingm

    Barber on Ford
    Needless to say the video isn’t mentioned.

  • Doggiez

    Did John Barber and Rex Murphy both get hit with the same ugly stick? Jebus!
    As the saying goes, “You’ve got a great face for radio.”

  • David Newland

    It’s not clear at all to my eyes/ears that John Barber actually said what he was accused of saying, but if someone called me that I’d get in his face too.

  • Doggiez

    This could have gone far worse. Barber could have said: “Ford, you’re fat! Do you want to f@!k?”
    All at once now:

  • elliot

    I never realized how shrill Ford’s voice is.