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2013 Villain: Rob Ford

Nominated for: everything.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 2 p.m. on January 1. At 4 p.m. we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

villain rob ford brian mchlachlan

While I was writing this article, the power went out because of the ice storm and half of my work was was lost, forcing me to start fresh. This ended up being helpful in the end, because in the interim Rob Ford reminded everybody exactly why he was a Villain in 2013.

To recap: after the storm hit Rob Ford held a press conference to explain that despite there being 300,000 Toronto Hydro customers without electricity in the middle of winter (amounting to as many as one million people), this was not a state of emergency. (He also provided incorrect instructions for how to report downed power wires, then falsely claimed that declaring a state of emergency would mean having to shut down stores, transit, and cancel a Kanye West concert.)

In fact, he explained helpfully that a real state of emergency was a “tsunami or hurricane.” It did not seem to matter that the ice storm was at least as destructive as the flooding we experienced this summer. You may remember that rain storm as the one where Rob Ford explained how serious the situation was, and then went home to huddle with his family in his car.

For the sake of comparison, when Calgary experienced drastic flooding in June, Mayor Naheed Nenshi worked around the clock and literally had to be ordered to take sleep breaks. This is because Naheed Nenshi is a responsible public servant and Rob Ford is a worthless git.

A straight-up insult, yes, but what else can be said? The ice storm was clearly, obviously a state of emergency. One million people without electricity in the middle of winter is an emergency. There was no reason not to declare a state of emergency—except for the fact that, following the removal of virtually all of his powers by city council, if Ford ever does declare an emergency the authority to manage it will rest with Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. Rob Ford’s refusal to declare a state of emergency was, in essence, a temper tantrum writ large.

At this point you might suggest that Ford’s track record of constituent service disproves the notion that he is selfish. On the contrary: it reinforces it. After all, we know what Rob Ford constituent service looks like: he shows up; makes some concerned noises; and summons senior staff who are paid considerable salaries to manage large-scale problems, not micromanage individual ones. And then he goes. When he issues those summons he isn’t actually addressing the underlying issues in any way; he’s not thinking about or tackling root causes. He’s just using his influence to move one particular person affected by one particular instance of the problem up the queue.

Does that sound like a dedicated public servant? Or is that how someone who wanted to feel noble without putting in the actual effort to be noble would act?

There’s a certain tendency for people to assume that Doug is the actual reason Rob Ford is so terrible: “Doug bullies Rob” and “Doug’s the brains”—that sort of thing. And it’s certainly true that Doug is an awful human being in his own way as well. But this line of thought insulates Rob Ford from responsibility for his own seemingly endless series of awful acts: acts he gets away with because he has no sense of shame, a willingness to fight dirty, and a large amount of money to insulate him from consequences that would give others pause.

Another recent incident: Ford implying that Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale is a pedophile in a television interview. What made Ford’s subsequent apology for lying about Dale so noteworthy is that Rob Ford, for once—with the danger of a libel suit hanging over his head—had to not just say he was sorry in some sort of vague way that someone might have been offended, but explain, in detail, what he had done wrong. Most Rob Ford “apologies” (and there have been so very many) are in fact thinly-veiled complaints that we’re all obsessing about some bad things Rob Ford did or maybe we just thought he did, and why can’t we just all get over it?

Of course, he didn’t actually mean it when he apologized to Dale, because Rob Ford never, ever means it when he says he’s sorry; that is the special magic that Rob Ford brings to our public discourse. Given his track record with apologies, it’s fair to say that Rob Ford thinks an apology is what you do to get people to stop bothering you just because you did something stupid or irresponsible.

Like, for example, going on drunken binges. Or smoking crack cocaine in the company of criminals. Or potentially being involved in a coverup of evidence of the aforementioned crack smoking. Or threatening to sue former staffers for their admissions in police interviews. Or talking about going down on your wife on national television. Or trotting out your wife to stand there, humiliated, while you apologize insincerely for what you said on national television. Or lying, lying, lying, lying, lying about absolutely everything all the time, every single day, not caring about whether your lies are easily disprovable or whether they’re just enough of a smokescreen to create just enough plausible deniability to keep smirking.

The Fords are currently planning their 2014 campaign. In many ways it will be like the 2010 campaign that earned Rob Ford his first Supervillain of the Year award from this publication; it will be packed full of obvious lies, irresponsible promises, and crimes against math. Rob Ford will continue to portray himself as standing up for “the little guy,” a pernicious fiction in the face of policy positions and a voting record that don’t help actual poor people.

Rob Ford wants to pretend that he’s a hardworking champion of the common man. The problem is that Rob Ford, in real life, shows up to work late all the time (or sometimes not at all), and generally is not interested in the business of being mayor. Again: it has become is about the inner life of Rob Ford, and the city stands waiting while a spoiled brat who never grew up lives out some fantasy.

Some of you, by now, might think this invective too vicious. You’re going easy on our awful mayor, just as Torontoist’s collected writers and editors nearly went easy on him when we considered, briefly, refusing to let Rob Ford be a Villain candidate this year (the second time we’ve done that), because Rob Ford always wins and will almost certainly win again this year. (Some of us have our fingers crossed for Doug as a dark horse candidate). But if (and when) he wins he will still, and again, deserve it.



  • bobloblawbloblawblah

    I’d like to paraphrase the [ahem] great man’s words::

    “Rob Ford is a waste of skin.”

    Of course he’ll win as Super Villian, except this year there is an extra level of vileness to anything involving this horrible, self aggrandizing egotist. His polarization of TO politics alone demands he be Numero Uno Villian but after the craziness, the loutishness and borderline criminality of some of Ford’s behaviour during 2013 he deserves something more that “honours” such a despicable politician. Hopefully, after his crushing defeat next October(hopefully) we can give Ford a lifetime Supervillian achievement award and be done with him.

  • Fred

    Rob Ford does not possess one, single redeemable quality. He’s an idiot who has completely wasted 3 years of Toronto’s valuable time. Time when we could have been furthering the city’s reputation, he spent trashing it for his own selfish satisfaction. It’s time for Rob to go back to what he’s good at; taking handouts from the family business.

    • OgtheDim

      Hyperbole is not your friend.

      By all accounts Rob

      a) cares about his kids
      b) cares about his Mum
      c) worshipped his Dad
      d) really believes he is doing what is best
      e) wants to help people

      All of those are admirable qualities.

      Now, is Ford a good mayor? Of course not. But demonising him as totally evil (which the accompanying cartoon also points toward) feeds Ford Nation’s sense of “us vs. them”.

      i.e. Your words are as damaging to this city as Rob’s.

      • Fred

        And, I’m afraid the facts are not your friend…

        A. He loves his kids so much he drives to the Garrison Ball with them while he’s so drunk he has to be asked to leave and his kids taken home by someone else.
        B. He loves his Mum so much he brings continual shame and embarrassment to the family.
        C. He worshipped his Dad so much that he makes a mockery of the man’s memory with his vile and idiotic behavior.
        D. There isn’t a shred of evidence that he truly believes that anything he’s doing is “best” for Toronto or anyone other than himself. There are many documented instances where in fact, Ford has done precisely the opposite for his own political gain.
        E. Most of Rob Ford’s policy stances have actually hurt working people in Toronto – especially low income citizens and families. He slanders, lies and degrades anyone who brings a contrary opinion or point of view to the table. He privatized garbage collection and saved a few bucks and you call that an honest desire to “help people.”

        I would argue that your lack of courage or willingness to face the truth about this man is infinitely more detrimental than any honest criticism that has been levelled at Rob Ford – who is so utterly deserving of far more than mere criticism.

        • OgtheDim

          Lack of courage – umm……this the internet. We are all cowards. And yet we are all still here, engaging. So, chalk one up for sheer stubborness at trying to do the right thing on all our parts.

          Anyhoo……lets just look at what was said here:

          You said, “Rob Ford does not possess one, single redeemable quality. ”

          I called you on that one phrase providing a few base ideas that have been discussed before by others.

          At the core, those things I listed can not be denied to have existed.

          You don’t really deny them. You criticise them and I agree with much of what you said. Again, I’m not exactly ignoring him. BUT, that doesn’t mean they do not exist as base emotions.

          You seem to think that if he has anything good about him that must be denied, completely.

          Its that sort of hyperbole that has gotten us to the us vs. them that MUST stop if this city is to get anywhere.

          So, yeah, when some random guy on the internet says that a human being, however flawed and wrong in the job has
          “no redeemable qualities”, pardon me if I don’t go jumping on the “yes, lets whip this boy” brigade.

          As you said, that’s what Rob does.

          And we are a better city then that.

          Ignore the Lout.

          It will reduce your blood pressure.

          • Fred

            In the interest of meeting half way, I’ll put it differently. I aspire for this city to have a Mayor with more notable leadership qualities than “liking their mum, dad and kids”. Beyond liking one’s family members, I should think that a modicum of honesty, prudence, vision and intellect might befit the leader of the 4th largest city in North America. It has become painfully obvious (often by his own admission) that Rob Ford possess none of these virtues. In fact, he openly criticizes those who do. Is that more fair?

            And if there’s one thing that Rob Ford should not be, it’s ignored. Apathy, I’m afraid, is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        The words of a random guy on the internet are as damaging to Toronto as the words of the mayor?

        Take a moment to think about that.

        • OgtheDim

          Oh t I have thought about where internet discussion sits in terms of what the heck goes on in the real world – been doing that for a long time.

          Although I agree one person on the net saying x means nothing, when a LOT of people say x, then there is a definate trend. And the trend when it comes to Toronto politics is to demonise the other side. And that is EXACTLY what fuels the Rob Ford world view – anger at being an outsider when they just want to do the right thing (no matter how wrong how they go about doing itat right thing is).

          • Still_Waters3

            Problem is, Ford and his followers characterize themselves as outsiders even when their own guy is in charge. It’s about as truthful as the “war on the car.” I don’t like the demonizing and dividing of the city either, but the fact remains that trying to have a rational debate with people who are determined to be irrational is a losing proposition.

      • worstmayorever

        but…he is evil. fact,

  • Frostmoth

    No f’ing way would I say this “invective is too vicious”.

  • FGFM

    It’s Rob Ford’s world, we just live in it.

  • OgtheDim

    I suspect he will win this award, but, frankly, Rob Ford should just be ignored. Anything which provides oxygen to his outsider status and the whole “elites don’t like us” view should be shut off. I get why people feel the need to vent over how bad this guy is as mayor. But, the goal MUST be to get rid of him. And if that takes being disciplined about rising above Rob’s world, and having to forgo the emotional desire to yell at the bad man, then so be it.

    • OpportKnocks

      Agree 100%. The media should just ignore him. But sadly they won’t because, like any disaster, it brings eyeballs.

  • worstmayorever

    exactly, viciously duplicitous, shameless liar, useless as a public servant. Dead albatross around Toronto’s neck.

  • Don J

    Fantastic article.