Every Sunday, Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug host The City, a two-hour talk show on Newstalk 1010. We listen so you don't have to.
Oh my, The City returns after being off for the civic holiday last weekend. That should mean twice the talk-radio goodness, what with Doug setting the record straight, “Dave” from Scarborough calling in, and Rob coming up with nicknames for all his favourite councillors. Let’s have a listen, shall we?
1:11: After reading a list of humdrum official appearances from the past week, one of which was a stop at Dairy Queen, Rob gets to what we’ve all been waiting for. He addresses his Taste of the Danforth appearance, where multiple independent observers said he was intoxicated. “Did I have a couple of beers? Absolutely I had a couple of beers,” says the mayor. “And if I offended anyone, you know what, I apologize. I don’t believe I did offend anyone.”
The mayor’s non-apology apology doubles as a non-denial denial, showing a practiced verbal acuity—at least when it comes to explaining away bad behaviour.
“Rob and I are average guys. We go down to a festival, we have a couple of beers,” says Doug, who has repeatedly said he does not drink. Also, this is very different from the response Doug gave in March, when he said he’d never seen his brother have a drink. It’s a lot easier to have consistent messaging when you’re honest all the time. Just saying.
1:16: Peter Shurman, the MPP for Thornhill, joins the show to discuss the state of the provincial Progressive Conservative party and its embattled leader, Tim Hudak. Shurman, a former Newstalk 1010 radio host, thinks the party is doing great, and Rob and Doug agree. They agree that Tim Hudak is the guy to lead Ontario and think the Conservatives did well in the recent provincial by-elections, in which the party took one of five seats. This is an odd conversation to have on a show called “The City.”
1:39: Mayor Ford announces that there will be a special council meeting on August 26 to decide how to replace Councillor Doug Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre). (Holyday was the one conservative to win a seat during those previously mentioned by-elections, so he’s leaving for Queen’s Park.) Ford favours a by-election despite the $250,000 cost. The alternative would be for council to appoint someone to the seat.
1:47: Mary on line one thinks Rob is doing a “fantastic job” and loves how he’s “human, a real, real person,” although I personally think it would be pretty cool to have a Roomba as mayor. Mary thinks that all of the criticism is really unfair, that Rob is wonderful, and that he should be left alone. I’m suddenly transported back to 2007.
1:48: Caller Rob thinks ousting Tim Hudak would be political suicide, because voters wouldn’t have enough time to familiarize themselves with a new leader. Doug agrees and says Hudak will do 10 times better than Premier Kathleen Wynne or NDP leader Andrea Horwath. Keep in mind that Doug likes to exaggerate, usually by a multiple of 10. It’s his thing.
1:50: John thinks Rob is doing a great job and that it’s okay if he has a few beers at a city festival. He also really doesn’t like his local councillor, Glenn de Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre), and Rob and Doug share his feelings.
1:56: Caroline, age 70, thinks that Rob is the best mayor Toronto has ever had and that he’s really honest—and that that’s why people are out to get him. She also thinks we should have a by-election to replace Doug Holyday rather than appointing someone, because democracy is great.
1:58: Harrison asks Doug why he said a couple of months ago that he’d never seen his brother have a drink. Doug says it’s no big deal, that Rob will have a couple drinks now and then—but he won’t get wasted. Harrison responds that so long as Rob’s not driving drunk, that sounds okay, and Rob says someone drove him home.
Of course, there’s history here: Rob was convicted of driving under the influence in Florida in 1999, has been accused of making drunken public appearances as mayor, has been urged to seek help for substance abuse by former chief of staff Mark Towhey and former executive committee member Jaye Robinson, refuses to hire a driver, and has denied this kind of drunken behaviour altogether in the past. This is conduct unbecoming of a mayor, let alone one who routinely rolls into work at 1 p.m. Beyond his mayoral duties, Rob Ford appears to have personal challenges to confront, but is being encouraged by allies—like his brother—to put political perception ahead of an honest appraisal of himself. Whatever you may think of the mayor, that’s a sad situation.
2:07: Norm Kelly (Ward 40, Scarborough Agincourt), Toronto’s new deputy mayor, has joined the show. He shares his background as someone who ran for student council growing up, did research for Pierre Berton, taught history at UCC, and was a Liberal MP in the Trudeau government before becoming a Metro councillor. Kelly adds that he was impressed with how the late prime minister could speak extemporaneously for long periods of time about the repatriation of the constitution. To Kelly, that showed the depth and clarity of Trudeau’s thinking.
2:20: Now we have our football segment! Toronto Argos general manager Jim Barker joins the show, and Rob asks him about the team’s outlook and Ricky Ray’s health status, among other things. Rob speaks without notes with confidence and clarity. So, yeah, football is to Rob Ford as the constitution was to Pierre Trudeau.
2:29: Derek calls in and says he’s a big-time supporter of the Ford brothers. He agrees that Hudak should stay as leader and that the conversation about removing him is just a distraction. Also a distraction: talking about how to fix a political party when you work in a non-partisan municipal environment.
2:39: Caller Joe thinks either Doug Ford or Doug Holyday should be the next PC leader, and Rob jumps in to say that Tim Hudak is the leader and that the Fords support him. That said, Rob says brother Doug would make a great MPP and could be the leader after Hudak. Doug has said he doesn’t plan to run for another term on council and has publicly mused about running for provincial office—he might just do it, too, even if only to spite Raccoon Nation.
2:51: A Calypso musician discusses a song he wrote in the mayor’s honour. It’s an upbeat, optimistic tune with lyrics that talk about how it doesn’t matter what people say about Rob, he’s still worth voting for. It’s no Jenny James, but it’s a fine addition to the canon of Rob Ford music.
3:00: And Doug wraps up with a string of questionable talking points like “stopping the gravy train” and “saving a billion dollars” before blessing Ford Nation.
This week’s edition of The City acted as a support hotline for the mayor, allowing our chief magistrate to hear reassuring feedback about his conduct. It’s an interesting case study in how an information bubble is made and how it can be unhealthy to be the person at the centre of it.
Two out of five shish kebabs. And God bless you, Raccoon Nation, you scavenging scamps.