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65 Comments

politics

Rob Ford Holds a “Press Conference”

On the mayor's first day back at City Hall he gave an address that was half mea culpa, half campaign stump speech.

Screenshot from CP24.

Rehabilitation is supposed to be about resetting the trajectory of your life. For politicians, representatives with a sworn duty to protect the interests of those who elected them, rehabilitation must to some extent happen in public. While rehab often causes people to make professional changes (moving work environments or avoiding certain colleagues, for instance), in the particular case of politicians—because of their ongoing relationship with the electorate and the expectation of transparency in a democracy—those professional changes take place out in the open. Or at least they should, if leaders are to regain the public’s trust.

The mayor held an event today, his first day back at the office. It was meant to inform us of his current state and future plans—to serve as his reintroduction to the people of Toronto after rehab. It was meant to demonstrate that he had faced his issues head-on, and was ready to return to work.

There was nothing—in his demeanour, in the content of his remarks, or in the nature of the event itself—to indicate that Rob Ford is a changed man.

The mayor spoke for 18 minutes, and his statement was roughly divided into two halves: an apology and a political call to arms. The first was vague, abstract, and generic. The second, sloganeering we have heard for years. The combination of the two was both odd and odious.

Apologies need, above all, to be specific. For an apology to constitute a genuine gesture toward making amends, you must specify what it is that you have done wrong. You must show some understanding of the toll it has taken on others, and you must indicate in concrete, specific ways the measures you are taking to ensure your behaviour will be different in the future. Ford’s speech contained almost none of these things.

The only specific act the mayor apologized for was making “hurtful and degrading remarks” about Karen Stintz. Entirely absent from his speech were the years of lying; his countless homophobic and racist remarks; the many misogynist remarks he has made independently of the ones about Stintz; the alleged mistreatment of his staff; his relationship to one Toronto’s major gangs; or acts of violence allegedly done in his name, or for the sake of his protection.

Rob Ford cherry-picked from the catalogue of his sins—known, suspected, and alleged—and focused only on the ones he could most easily dismiss. He spoke in broad strokes, with remarks like: “I want to sincerely, sincerely apologize not just to the people of Toronto but every single person who was hurt by words and my actions… I deeply, I deeply regret some of the personal choices I have made in the past.”

Which people? Which words? Which actions? What choices?

Without filling in the details, this is an apology that could have been scripted at any time, one Ford could have delivered any day since he first admitted to smoking crack. There was nothing new, and thus no reason to believe that he has come out of rehab with a renewed, deepened, or changed view of himself, his actions, or his role in the city.

“At GreeneStone I learned that in my position I am held to a higher standard,” Ford said at one point—stunning in its inadvertent admission of ignorance, but also extremely revelatory. Rob Ford has been mayor for more than three years and was a councillor for 10 years before that. Somehow, in all that time, the notion that holding elected office was a form of public trust did not occur to him?

“Substance abuse is a very, very difficult thing to overcome. But I will keep, I will keep battling this disease for the rest of my life,” Ford said. Two paragraphs later, he was waxing on about the gravy train and reducing the size and cost of government. He proceeded in this fashion, listing accomplishments related to garbage collection and Scarborough subways. What Ford needed to do today was show us that he had looked deep within himself, had wrestled with demons, emerged with new understanding. What we got was a funhouse mirror version of reality.

Rob Ford signalled his post-rehab attitude also in the very structure of today’s event: an unprecedented, invitation-only, parody of a “press conference.” Invitees were told in advance that no questions would be permitted. Of the outlets who were invited each was permitted to send only one reporter, and needed to advise the mayor’s office in advance who it would be. Among those who were not on the list: several dues-paying members of the City Hall press gallery (such as NOW Magazine); the president of the City Hall press gallery (David Nickle, who writes for Metroland); other media outlets in Toronto that routinely cover City Hall (including Torontoist and the Grid); and national wire services (such as the Canadian Press).

In short: the new Rob Ford did a remarkably good imitation of the old Rob Ford acting on especially bad advice on a particularly bad day.

Far more importantly, it was also a basic failure of his responsibility as an elected official. A free and independent press is a necessary part of a functioning democracy—which isn’t just about casting a ballot on election day, but presumes that those who are in a position to vote are also in a position to be informed voters. Denying reporters access, picking and choosing which reporters get access based on no discernible principle, refusing to answer questions—all these undermine the integrity of the institution Rob Ford has sworn to uphold.

But this “press conference” was not about resetting trajectories, or rebuilding faith with the public, or making amends. It was, as it has always been in Rob Ford’s mayoralty, about the man himself, about his sense of what we are permitted to know, about how much free rein his victory in October, 2010, entitled him to, no matter how much has changed since then. And insofar as it was about that—about him rather than Torontonians, about his needs rather than those of his constituents—this “press conference” was compelling evidence that whatever impact rehab may have had on Rob Ford’s private life (and we sincerely hope it took hold there), it has had as yet no demonstrable effect on his public, professional life, or on his conduct in office.



A note about City Hall press gallery membership: in order to join, a media outlet must rent office space at City Hall, which is charged at market-rate rents. This means there is a practical constraint on membership: there are a limited number of offices available, and sometimes media outlets have to wait to join the press gallery until one of them has been vacated. And there is additionally a financial litmus test for joining the press gallery (because the rent isn’t cheap) which puts smaller outlets at a disadvantage. Torontoist has several times proposed the creation of a non-tenant press gallery membership option, to help address these limitations; thus far, we have had no luck.

A note about the purported space limitations that forced a cap on the number of media who could attend: Ford’s staff opted to hold this event in the mayor’s suites of offices. The City Hall council chamber, though, has a Members’ Lounge that has traditionally been used for major press conferences. It is large enough to accommodate all interested media with room to spare—as it did, for instance, when we gathered there for David Miller’s post-G20 press conference. The space constraint the mayor’s staff cited to justify the media cap was purely a function of choosing to hold the event in the mayor’s Protocol Lounge, and an entirely manufactured problem.

Comments

  • dannyR

    I was expecting to hear—after his adroit, if hurried, segue into the sort of electioneering that should leave his rivals demanding equal time— his favourite b-word with respect to savings. Did I miss it?

    He said “hundreds of millions”, not the usual “billion”, and frequently hid deftly behind the royal (or the editorial?) ‘we’ in its accomplishment, leaving enough ambiguity to satisfy the most demanding of Ford Nation.

    ‘We’, as in…Rob?
    ‘We’, Doug ‘n me?
    ‘We’, Me ‘n the city manager? The city manager ‘n me?
    ‘We’, Council, the city manager, staff, planners, Doug ‘n me?

  • MichaelTremendous

    I had no idea there were candidates more worthy of attention than the crack-smoking, bigoted, unrepentant incumbent.

    Who might those be?

    • dannyR

      Grab anyone at random.

  • klepto84

    When will the media stop dancing to Ford’s tune? Cover public events, like debates, but stop showing up at his press conferences. Anyone who truly cared about Toronto would have resigned a long time ago. He never will because he is addicted to media attention and being a “celebrity”. Stop giving him what he wants. If the media grew a pair, Ford would start treating the media with some respect.

    • dannyR

      And stop calling the rehab R&R, swimming pool, shopping-jaunt break, sit-on-azz-watch-motivational-speaker, “Greed-Stoned $200K will get you the best personal trainer” emporium deluxe…

      …a ‘stint’. That’s lazy journalism.

      • quidnunc

        The “media” respected Rob & Doug’s pleas to respect the Greenestone patients’ privacy while Robbie was at Greenestone. When he wandered out in public spaces or lent his vehicle to an outpatient, well, no one to blame but the SpinMeister. Lazy journalism was Wormington’s almost daily updates from patient Ford’s cell phone.
        The proof of the rehab is in the Changed Man and he ain’t here.

        • rich1299

          Addiction rehab doesn’t do anything at all for bigotry or buffoonery.

    • mlr81

      You do understand, dear, that the media makes money when they get a chance to cover stuff like this? You knew that, right, Sugar Plum? They get clicks, and that makes advertisers happy, see.

      If you want leaders who are only covered by the media when there’s a boring public event, then let’s cut it with the “democracy” horse-and-pony-scam, and go the Hong Kong/Singapore/Dubai/Monaco/Serene Republic of Venice route, and toss democratic elections in favour of having former Aud.Gen Sheila Fraser elected Serene Doge. Then Toronto would be both well-run and boring.

  • OgtheDim

    The man is odious.

    And there will never be a cathartic “Yes you were all correct and I did all those things and I’m sorry and now I am going to change.” moment.

    Stop expecting one.

    As media, your responsibility is to report, and comment. And certainly explaining in detail what his falsehoods mean for the city, the election, and voters is warranted.

    But, the man is not for changing.

    ************

    Now is this where I can complain about how tin eared and obviously too strategic for their own good the Chow campaign comes across as with their continued reluctance to call for RoFo’s resignation? Sure, he’s not going to resign. But, why then persist with something that looks like a political ploy to keep RoFo voters from voting Tory?

    Chow people too clever in their own minds.

    • dsmithhfx

      Only one thing will keep Rofo’s dimbulb nation from voting for him: he takes his name off the ballot. Even then, a good half will write-in/stay home/spoil their ballots. In any case, as we all know, it ain’t gonna happen. He said as much today. Is that on Chow? Nope. Nothing she says/not will change that. Rob ‘s campaign will get Chow elected. Chow peoples’ cleverness irrelevant.

      • mytwocentsworth

        But Tory could use the other half, don’t you think?

        • dsmithhfx

          I’m not sure he’s even capable. He seems to be sleepwalking towards a presumed coronation.

    • rich1299

      Chow is trying to win and stands a much better chance of winning with Ford in the race. Of course she still could’ve called for Ford’s resignation regardless since its not going to happen especially when his birth family considers themselves to be the “Canadian Kennedys”. It would likely take both a relapse and a heart attack or drunk driving crash or something along those lines for Ford to drop out of the mayor’s race.

    • torontothegreat

      Butthurt Tory supporter, lol!

      • OgtheDim

        Me?

        If anything I’m trending to Soknacki.

        I just can’t stand it when NDP types get all up about ethics and morals and then do political gamesmanship like this.

        • dsmithhfx

          “NDP types” (and all politicos) are guilty of all sorts of political gamesmanship. This isn’t one of them. It’s all RoFo’s own fault, all the time.

          • OgtheDim

            No.

            We are all responsible for how we react to the buffoon.

        • mytwocentsworth

          I think Soknacki is probably the best prospect out there. He’s not partisan and he’s got a brain. Too bad he’s not in contention at the moment.

          • dsmithhfx

            I like Soknacki, and I think he’d make a good mayor. I hope he finds a role in civic administration; he’s got a lot to offer.

  • Frostmoth

    Fuck I hope he OD’s soon and rids us all of his wretched presence.

    • rich1299

      It’d be much sweeter for him to be tossed out by the citizens of Toronto. Ideally Doug runs for the PC leadership and is laughed out of that race very effectively removing them both from politics for good.

      • torontothegreat

        Totally agree with this. This is the only way that we’re going to get rid of this wretched family, permanently.

    • Steve Wingfield

      What a scumbag you are…hoping someone OD’s? You want to talk about wretched? There it is right there in your words. You should be ashamed of yourself…and the 11 people that liked your comment…

      • NayChan

        Oh good golly, go grab your smelling salts and clam down. Do you know how many people want this wretched stain to OD? I have no pity for this pathetic, disingenuous clown. I would love him to disappear. Permanently. At the end of the day he has no one else to blame but himself. He should take his own advice and deport himself, since that what he wanted to do with other smokers of the rock – deport them.

  • Lutesuite

    It seems to me, if no questions were allowed, this was not a press conference but a campaign speech, and therefore an improper use of City Hall resources. Maybe I’ll make a complaint to the integrity commissioner.

    • http://www.leschinskidesign.com/contact/addme picard102

      Plenty of press conferences do not end in a q and a.

      • Lutesuite

        Do they consist entirely of a campaign speech, as well?

        • http://www.leschinskidesign.com/contact/addme picard102

          every speech he’s ever made has been a campaign speech. Welcome to 4 years ago.

          • Lutesuite

            Point granted.

  • wklis

    Took Rob two months to write that speech.

    If he wrote it, that is.

    • Notcleverguy

      He also read it two words at a time.
      The best is when he read the word “very” came up with a confused expression on his face, paused, looked down at his notes again and came back up with another “very”.

      He’s unbelievably under-educated, among other bad things.

    • dsmithhfx

      Too obviously, he didn’t.

  • Notcleverguy

    Predictable and hollow, and mostly a campaign speech. Same old Rob Ford.

  • quidnunc

    Wow … THAT photo says it all. Dead Mayor Walking.

  • Notcleverguy

    Rehab seems to have had no affect at all on Rob’s grandiose sense of delusional self achievement, all this pathetic little attention seeking speech was missing was an, ” I was the best patient Greenstone or any rehab facility has ever seen.” It was actually in there though, just hidden between the lines.

    • dsmithhfx

      If the biggest celebrity who’s admitted bragged being a patient there crashes and burns (as seems entirely likely), Greedstoned might need to change their name.

      • rich1299

        In all fairness to Greenstone most people with addiction problems don’t manage to stay sober after their first serious attempt at sobriety regardless of the sort of therapy.

        Though I find places like Greenstone to be problematic, in what other field of health care would such private for profit luxury spa resort type of treatment centres be tolerated? If Greenstone treated heart disease instead of addiction it wouldn’t be allowed to exist. Can anyone think of any other type of private luxury resort style hospitals that allow the wealthy to jump the queue in Canada? They don’t exist except when it comes to treating addiction so the wealthy and bigots don’t have to rub elbows with everyday people recovering from addiction. These types of places are only allowed to exist because of the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health problems.

        The very best rehabs in Canada are usually public hospitals, not private clinics of even the more modest kind that pop up in strip malls and waste limited public funding on needless Dr appts. and testing negatively affecting their patients. But that’s a rant for another day.

        Public hospitals, especially research focused and specialized ones like CAMH are leading the way with new research and improved treatment methods. You won’t get a spa resort at a public hospital but you will get excellent addiction treatment that doesn’t put private profit ahead of the patient’s well being.

  • Still_Waters3

    Why should we believe Ford…for the fourth time? How many chances does one man deserve? He had his chances, and he blew it. If he had a shred of decency or any real respect for the citizens of Toronto, he would resign the mayoralty and withdraw from politics.

    • Notcleverguy

      The fact he hasn’t shows how little respect he has for Toronto, its residents and most of all the office of mayor. Not mant have taken a larger dump on the office and then proceeded to say, I’m sorry, lauded his delusional achievements and thinks it’s OK to move on like all is forgiven.

  • Alex2

    Doug is a master at controlling the message. It involves controlling the media. Journalists have complained about Rob not taking questions. Jounalists have complained about his not releasing his schedule. Jounalists have complained about his excluding the Star from press releases. Journalists have complained about Rob forcing everyone into a scrum outside his office and then repeating Rob’s remarks in quotes in their review.. And now this last insult of an intivitee only media event. Well Jounalists what are you gonna do? You’ve been turned into gossip mongerers. Think outside the box. City council clipped his wings so you can do the same. Just think.

    • mlr81

      And for every “Journalist complained …” I bet you clicked, didn’t ya? And the journos in question got paid (not well, I’d imagine), all the same. And the advertisers were happy. Who’s controlling whom, hmm?

      In the words of the great Canuck, Marshall McLuhan: “There’s a war going on between us and them, where “them” is defined as “not us,” and “us” is defined as “me.” You lose.

    • rich1299

      I had been under the impression that after the dust up when Ford’s driver assaulted some reporters as Ford pulled his wife through that same small crowded room after his “eating habits” comment that he was banned from holding any more press conferences in that room. Apparently not or Ford figures those rules no longer apply to him since he’s been to rehab.

      • dsmithhfx

        I think the rule was that there’s a limit on how many people are allowed to be in there. Ford could have read out the campaign speech in a bigger room just down the hall, as City Hall staff pointed out.

    • OgtheDim

      “Doug is a master at controlling the message.”

      Uh…no.

      The amount of gaffes he has done disproves your point.

      He is an apprentice at attempting to control the message…but he doesn’t even attempt all that well.

  • Alex2

    The “message” was delivered to the world wide audience on Monday. HE’S BACK. Even Jimmy Kimmel referenced his return. The only video available to media is that of Rob’s speech. So keeping in mind that the world is watching, all you need to do is wait for his next screw up and get it on video. It will happen, it is just a matter of when. The whoile world is watching and waiting for an end to this saga. So in the interimn, please journalists try to focus on the mayoral election issues and keep on publishing positive stories about the other candidates. You do not have to be civil when discussing Rob. That would be playing by your rules of fair reporting and why should you play by the rules when Rob and Doug do not. Take your pound of flesh.
    For example, follow the Kathy Ford umpteenth court appearance and write a full story. Is this the kind of person we want to be associating with the mayor. She is still smoking crack. Follow the civil trial of Scott MacIntyre. It is also of public interest.

    • mlr81

      Do you think journalists think about you? Power doesn’t think about what you think is “fair” or should/n’t be associated with the mayor or your feels re.” the price of liver on Tuesday. Power doesn’t think about you at all.

      Do you think The Star/The Globe/NatPost/et al care about good governance? Do you think they care about YOU? They hate you. They hate everyone, especially readers like you; it thinks of you as a credit card number, or a registered (irrelevant + predictable + factored out) voter, or an organ donor. If they have to make a buck and Toronto gets thrown under a bus, so be it.

      Nothing would be better for the media than if there were more videos, because it will mean more novelty, which is what you want. It’s HOW you want. Just as long as they have your clicks, it’s what they want, too.

      • rich1299

        Did some journalist steal your kidney? were you kicked out of journalism school or is this just projection? “Do you think they care about YOU? They hate you. They hate everyone, especially readers like you; it thinks of you as a credit card number, or a registered (irrelevant + predictable + factored out) voter, or an organ donor”. Even if journalists were all the same and if they were as filled with anger as you describe it’d be as obvious in their writing as it is in yours. I’ve yet to see it though, angry about specific issues sure, angry at their readers not so much.

      • dsmithhfx

        You’re conflating corporate media ownership with journalists and journalism. There’s a lot of truth in what you say about corporate media. About journalists, not so much. Know the difference.

        • mlr81

          @dsmithhfx:disqus Bloggers write what they want: corporate journos write for their corporate editors (it’s this thing called “having a boss”). Know the difference.

          @rich1299:disqus Mothers who put their daughters through beauty pageants as a way of living vicariously hate their daughters. A teacher who writes an exam that is easy for him to grade so he can give you all inflated grades but can’t tell you how to improve from a mediocre student to a better one (all for the fair market price of $2000): yeah, he hates you, too. A+. Who told you “hate” = “anger.” It doesn’t. Know the difference.

          • Notcleverguy

            Is there any time on here when you’re not making sweeping generalizations in an effort to try and prove only your opinion is right and you’re smarter than everyone?

          • dsmithhfx

            “Angry Guy on the Internet”

          • mlr81

            I’m here to practice applying new ideas I learn. You all provide an excellent backdrop for that practice: each of you is perfectly predictable in your “apes throwing their moist poops, with gusto, at the ‘other’ ape tribe (as designated by the media).” How co-operative of you!

            If that rattles you, then good: I’d be tickled if my practicing gave any one of you the impetus to look at things a little differently. There’ll be more poop slinging apes to take your place: you’ll have replaced your media driven angst with a bit of zen (smells better, I’ll tell ya …), I’ll have honed my skills to be a better teacher to my students (Lord knows I owe the monkeys here diddly-squat).

            [Reactionary weasel says, “Was this a ‘sweeping generalization’? If so, I’ve already eaten it. Not sorry.”

          • vampchick21

            Yeah, you’re kinda a bit of a downer jerkass. Just sayin. Kinda makes me want to, oh, I don’t know, dismiss you outright and not take you or your ideas or opinions seriously. Demote you to poop-flinging monkey man not worth spitting on. Point at you and laugh.

            Get the picture? Or are you just gonna post another tired meme pic from reddit?

          • mlr81

            You’ve served your purpose with gusto, dear, insisting on what a special snowflake you are, here among all the other specialest snowflakes that ever snowflaked. I know I can count on you next time I have a point to demonstrate (as opposed to convince you of: I wouldn’t hold you to such a standard! Totally unreasonable)

            Here, have a cookie. Class dismissed.

          • vampchick21

            oh my goodness aren’t you completely fucking full of yourself. I’m the special snowflake? You keep using that term, I don’t think it means what you think it means.

            In fact, I know you are using that term completely incorrectly in this context. Especially since I didn’t provide a single point or word that normally indicates someone thinks they’re a special snowflake. Way to completely fuck up your own sense of superiority.

            Again with the pointless meme pic. You must be the most popular basement dweller on Reddit! Congrats, your mom must be so proud of you!

            tl;dr: Idiot.

          • mlr81

            @OgtheDim:disqus + @vampchick21:disqus Perfect examples, outstanding effort all week long. My students could hardly believe how consistent the North American “mind” is:

            1. rush to predetermined sides
            2. fling poop
            3. demonstrate 0 awareness of media manipulation
            4. attack the person with ideas that don’t fit The Narrative

            Masterful.

          • OgtheDim

            Yeah, reddit is not your friend.

          • NayChan

            He must be Libertarian. They do that a lot, only they are not nearly as smart as they think they are.

          • dsmithhfx

            Seek help.

      • Steveinto

        Were do you get your news from? I am curious if you feel all journalism is untrust worthy what a makes your opinion trustworthy?

        • mlr81

          Who told you you needed to “get the news?” Isn’t it a bit much to expect me to know, for instance, what’s really going on with Rob Ford unless I, y’know, ask him myself? Assuming I care (NB: I do not).

          I don’t think it’s too much to ask of me, though, to understand the world around me as it really is. But I find mastheads that read “New York Times” or “CBC” are really just asking me to turn off the critical thinking part of my brain. So I read. I read newspapers, and I read plenty of other things, beside: but I hope I don’t use a pretty byline pic or an “authoritative” masthead as a mental shortcut to understanding; if I’m reading something, I better be convinced of the content of the argument being made to me, and the first two questions are “Who is getting paid here?” (easy answer if the writer in question is dead!) and “What does the author want to be true?”

          Here’s a place to start: Robert Filmer’s treatise “Patriarcha” were he concludes that the only way democracy can survive is with enemies, in place of a King, either external or internal (War on Terror, anyone? Icanhazdronestrikes? War on Drugs? Intersectional social justice? Modernity positively has a Baskin Robins array of enemies to choose from! What’s YOUR favorite flavor to hate?). He wrote that in 1680 (pretty sure he isn’t drawing a corporate salary anymore). The enemies we have, in and out, keep us in better unity, you see, than the law itself. Clever guy.

          Certainly helped me make more sense of Rob Ford than anything else! But feel free to return to your regularly scheduled 2 minutes hate.

          • dsmithhfx

            You were posting the same/very similar stuff under a different name a few weeks ago…

          • mlr81

            And you’ve been here all along, acting like a typical North American: you can’t grapple with difficult ideas so you attack the person with the idea.

            Here, let me help: I am lazy, I fail to finish what I start, I j/o using the overhand technique and I do many other objectionable things.

            Do you win yet?

          • dsmithhfx

            The ideas you post aren’t “difficult”, they’re bent, passive-aggressive boy.

            You know, it’s possible for others to read and evaluate journalism for what it is, and come to their own conclusions.

            You might find this edifying (or not):
            http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/07/03/contempt_of_rob_fords_media_manipulation_runs_deep_james.html

  • OgtheDim

    Somebody explain to Meli who the Dixon Bloods are.