Photo by Jonathan Goldsbie/Torontoist.
At 1:42 Wednesday morning, Rob Ford apologized to Adam Vaughan. It was shocking, unexpected, and beautiful in its oblivious Ford-ness. And it was far, far from good enough.
Council’s meeting had commenced at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday and was set to end at 8 p.m., but they opted to continue until 11; then when the issue of dog shit vs. bird shit dragged on, they voted to keep going until all business on the Council agenda was completed. Hence the final item, the Integrity Commissioner’s “Report on Violation of Code of Conduct by Councillor Ford,” kicked off around one in the morning and achieved a level of surreal transcendence by virtue of the midnight-madness circumstances. You see, councillors heckle each other at the best of times, but unlike their counterparts in the federal and provincial parliaments, our local politicians are both witty and usually have the good sense to keep their remarks at a level that can only be picked up by those seated not far away. But the combination of a Rob Ford–centric item and a late-night milieu ensured that Council’s final hour was an immense entertainment.
Ford, you may remember, used his radio show to accuse Councillor Vaughan of influence peddling. That was exactly five months ago, on September 25. When Vaughan alluded to the allegations at Council later that same morning, Ford repeated them. After sicking his lawyer on Ford, Vaughan was able to extract an apology on the next week’s radio broadcast. The matter also became the first investigation conducted by Interim Integrity Commissioner Lorne Sossin, whose debut report, which is quite an interesting read [PDF], was released last week and was not what most councillors expected. Although Sossin agreed that Ford had breached Council’s Code of Conduct, he did not call for any further apologies from or sanctions against Ford—that Ford had retracted the remarks on his radio show was deemed sufficient. Last night, City Council by and large disagreed with this assessment and raked Sossin across the coals for it; because Ford had made the same allegations at Council, in front of the public, media, and home viewers, contrition should also be expressed in that venue, they argued.
Vaughan put forward a motion calling for Ford to deliver an apology at the start of the next Council meeting, as well as for Ford to provide him with a written one. Councillor Moscoe put forward a motion calling for 1) Vaughan’s legal expenses to be reimbursed by the City, and 2) the money to be deducted from Ford’s office budget (Moscoe’s idea being to wound Ford’s pride by forcing his office budget above the $0 it usually officially clocks in at). Speaker Sandra Bussin ruled the second part of Moscoe’s motion out of order, and Moscoe withdrew the whole thing.
At this point, the councillors began addressing the problem of Ford on an existential level; like a lumbering, unfathomably stupid Anton Chigurh, nothing seems to be able to stop or dissuade him from saying and doing essentially the same dumb, harmful, and offensive things over and over again. He is almost beyond reason and comprehension—a force of nature, a fact of life.
Just as voting on Vaughan’s motion was set to start, however, Ford—who until then had kept his head down, literally and figuratively—rose to speak. Reading from prepared notes, he delivered an apology on behalf of himself and AM640 to Vaughan and any other councillor who may have been offended. While he said this with more gravity than he’s afforded to previous non-apologies, the fact that his retraction came at 1:42 a.m. largely defeated the purpose. Although Frances Nunziata argued that it wasn’t Ford’s fault the issue came up so late, most of the other councillors pointed out that the whole thrust of their argument against the Integrity Commissioner’s recommendation had been that Ford’s apologies should take place in forums equivalent to those in which the original allegations had been made. Saying sorry at 1:42 a.m. was a tree falling in the woods: only two thirds of councillors were still present, the TV broadcast had ended at 7, the online feed had cut out around 10, the gallery was virtually empty, and the only journalist around (unless you count ourselves) was the Star‘s super-dedicated Donovan Vincent.
Vaughan’s motion passed by a healthy margin, and the report (as amended) by an even healthier one. At 1:51 a.m., the meeting adjourned, and the members of Council who usually take the subway began trying to figure out how they were going to be getting home.