...and who you should definitely, entirely avoid.
So! You’re an American journalist, itching for a good lengthy piece about Rob Ford for your newspaper/news network/blog/whatever. This is understandable, because Rob Ford is a good story to write about: it’s a funny story (at least from a distance), dramatic, and sheds light on aspects of Canadian political culture you’ve never really thought about—all that sort of thing. You should cover the Rob Ford saga.
The problem, however, is that there are a lot of people to talk to in Toronto about Rob Ford. There are politicians, journalists, politicians who were journalists, and journalists who were politicians (and some, like John Tory, who are travelling in both directions at once). There are a lot of people who know a lot about Rob Ford. But some are better to talk to than others.
Let us give you a handy primer.
DON’T TALK TO:
Sue-Ann is certainly colourful and knows a lot about Toronto’s political scene, but the former City Hall correspondent for the Toronto Sun is currently trying to pretend that she has not been the Fords’ staunchest backer for Rob’s entire term in office—most likely because, well, look at all the things that have happened. This means your interview will likely not be that accurate. Worse, Levy’s…let’s call them “rhetorical flourishes”…when it comes to Toronto’s left wing will likely make you goggle. (An important exception: if you work for Fox News, you should probably go find Levy first and save us all some time.)
Rob Ford’s former press secretary and now a columnist for the Toronto Sun, Batra is smart (even if we don’t always agree with her politics), eloquent, and she got out of the Ford circus early enough that she is less tainted than most by the enormous ongoing scandal that is Ford. If you want the “insider perspective” for your story, Batra is probably your best bet and should not be too self-serving.
DON’T TALK TO:
You might be inclined to interview Thomson because she alleged Rob Ford groped her in one of his drunken stupors earlier this year, and was subsequently attacked for it by Ford Nation. Please don’t. Thomson is a particularly shameless self-promoter, and the fact that she was clearly done wrong by Ford Nation does not change this. Earlier this year when the crack scandal first broke, Thomson cryptically wrote on her Facebook page that the publication she runs, the Women’s Post, “had the video,” which got her many, many page-views—until she revealed that “the video” simply referred to some video for some promotional campaign Thomson was running. This should tell you one thing: speak with Sarah Thomson as little as possible.
Some American news outlets have already interviewed Doolittle and this was a very good move, because the Toronto Star reporter is probably the foremost journalistic expert with respect to the Rob Ford scandals. Doolittle is principled, intelligent, and a good interview (which many print journalists are not). Also, many people called her a liar for months—she was one of the reporters who saw the crack video back in the spring—and if anyone deserves a chance to lay this whole situation out properly from beginning to end, oh boy is it her.
DON’T TALK TO:
The veteran city councillor is a crass toady. To call Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) a rat fleeing a sinking ship is to insult rats: the man has only one political setting, and that is self-interested. Right now Mammo is undecided as to whether to stick it out with the Fords (his political allies for the past three years) or to suddenly start pretending that really, he was on the side of the anti-Fordists all along. This is interesting, in a sort of sad way, but it also makes him a useless interview subject. Besides which, Mammo does not really have an original thought to offer, except for his plan to erect a giant flagpole in northern Toronto (yes, really), so it’s not like you’re missing out. (PS: Do not ask Mammo about the giant flagpole. Just…don’t, okay?)
We know you’re going to want to speak to one of Toronto’s conservative politicians—Ford is apparently one—so our advice is to pick Parker (Ward 26, Don Valley West): he is a fiscal conservative who votes with his principles (which often meant voting with Rob Ford but in some striking cases voting against him), and who is also a strong defender of civic propriety. He was the first conservative councillor to truly break with the Ford administration and he didn’t try to hedge when he did so. Parker might not get our vote, but he will always have our respect.
DON’T TALK TO:
This is not really a criticism of Olivia Chow, per se. The current member of parliament for Trinity-Spadina and likely progressive candidate for mayor is historically well-versed in Toronto municipal politics, and we think she will run an interesting campaign. But the key word in that last sentence is “historically.” Chow will be running next year as a relative outsider: she has not been a regular in the Toronto municipal political arena for several years now. She’s just not a veteran of the Rob Ford years, and despite being a relatively big name she can’t really contribute much to your story.
Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale), a rookie councillor elected in 2010 (in the same election that made Ford mayor), has been an engaged and visible presence at council and will serve American journalists well as a representative voice for Toronto’s political left. There are certainly progressive councillors who would be more entertaining interviews (Adam Vaughan) and there are progressive councillors who have a deeper knowledge of policy (Gord Perks), but Wong-Tam gives you a solid bit of everything. More importantly, though: she is personally representative of where Toronto, the most diverse city on the continent, is going—and in this regard strikes a strong contrast to Rob Ford, who is in many ways what Toronto was a very long time ago.
REALLY, REALLY, REALLY DON’T TALK TO:
This bears special mention because Doug Ford has appeared on both CNN and NBC News in the past week. Look, Americans, we can’t overstate the importance of this, so we’re going to be as blunt as humanly possible: Doug Ford is a goddamned liar. He lies easily, reflexively, and near-constantly, because Doug Ford simply does not care about the truth (when in fact he has any idea what the truth may be). You might say to yourself that you are expecting this, because Doug Ford is going to protect his brother, but you will not be prepared for the sheer scope of Doug Ford’s never-ending mendacity, his constant false equivalencies, and his willingness to argue in bad faith—and you will not expect Doug Ford to lie to protect himself rather than protect his brother, because you will think “well, surely he won’t throw his brother under the bus,” but if you think that, you are giving Doug Ford too much credit. We would sooner have you interview Giorgio Mammoliti one hundred times before we have you interview Doug Ford even once.
FINALLY, TALK TO: Us! We work cheap.