We cannot excuse those making excuses for the mayor.
Thing he has refused to admit: that he has been lying about this for months. Things he has refused to address: whether he made homophobic and racist slurs; what was in the packages he exchanged with Sandro Lisi; what he knew about the video’s existence and when; whether he has been involved in any attempt to retrieve the video; and the concrete steps he might even hypothetically take to ensure that he can live up to the promise that this will “never, ever, ever” happen again.
Rob Ford has instead boldly proclaimed that “the past is the past, and we must move forward.”
Rob Ford’s problem is this: while he tries to dictate how we should all treat him with respect to this scandal, and humbly requests that we consider him a victim in this thing, he does not in fact get to do that. Rob Ford lied to Toronto many, many times. He is, by his own admission, someone who has committed criminal offences, and there are very likely more criminal offences yet to be laid at the Fords’ doorstep. He has turned our city into an international laughingstock, while hawking broken promises about fiscal prudence and increasing our cynicism about politics immeasurably.
Rob Ford cannot be allowed to continue to be the mayor of Toronto. His continued presence is a stain on the office and on the city.
If you consider addiction to be a disease—which it is—then it becomes harder to assign Ford moral fault for suffering from that disease. Diseases need treatment, not condemnation, and this is why so many political enemies of Rob Ford have been urging him to seek treatment, even if it only means a temporary leave from office rather than the permanent exile from politics Rob Ford deserves. The problem is that while addiction is morally neutral, how a person chooses to deal with that addiction is not. There is a way to live with addiction responsibly and soberly (or at least as soberly as possible; part of addiction is the constant threat of relapse). Rob Ford is refusing to pursue that responsible course. “I promise it will never happen again” is not the response of someone who is admitting to addiction. It’s the response of someone pretending he is.
In light of all this, and since Rob Ford has demonstrated that he cannot be shamed out of office—he seems utterly immune to shame, no matter how many times he lies to our faces about being sorry while wearing his kid-caught-with-his-hand-in-the-cookie-jar expression—it falls to the rest of us to curtail him.
First, city council must recognize that there is no more working with Ford. Period. Honouring him as mayor not only insults the city, but also enables his self-destructive behaviour even further. John Filion’s motion calling on council to temporarily strip the mayor’s office of much of its powers must be heard and passed by council, unanimously (well, except for the Fords, who we know will vote against). To do anything else should be considered a black mark on a councillor’s political career.
Council must also have Rob Ford’s office comprehensively audited. Recently released police documents reveal a pattern of communication not just between Ford and Alexander Lisi but between several members of Ford’s staff and Lisi, who now faces an extortion charge in connection with attempts to retrieve the video. There are also questions about whether the mayor’s office fully complied with freedom of information requests regarding inter-office email. (On top of all that, VICE Magazine is now alleging that a member of Ford’s staff may have tried to commission someone to hack an online repository that contained the video file—allegations that the staffer is denying.) Right now, the mayor’s office is not acting transparently, and information isn’t being communicated quickly or completely. Again: if Rob Ford is going to act like a dishonest child, then we must treat him like one.
That is what council can do. But that is not enough. Rob Ford has confessed to smoking crack cocaine, and the police have a video of him smoking crack cocaine. That is more than enough for the police to launch criminal charges against Rob Ford for drug possession. Key facts are already in the public domain; these charges should not affect the other ongoing TPS investigations of Rob Ford and his staff. We understand that some may be reluctant to launch criminal charges of such a relatively minor nature; this is natural. But the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is quite clear: possession of a Schedule I narcotic such as crack cocaine is a hybrid offense punishable by up to seven years in prison. Rob Ford, one of the most important public officials in the country, is publicly proclaiming his criminal activity. An example should be made, if only to remind people that we are all equal before the law. After all, if Rob Ford were anybody else—and especially if he were a poor, black anybody else—he would be playing by a very different set of rules.
Finally, we turn to Premier Kathleen Wynne. The Premier of Ontario must immediately take legislative action to ensure recall, impeachment, or other checks and balances are in place so that city council is empowered to take stronger action in future. Rob Ford’s continued presence in office is undermining the capital city of the province Wynne governs. It cannot be permitted to happen again.
Compassion, when applied to the cold hard necessities of politics, cannot and should not be an endless well. Someone who actively commits harm cannot be given endless second chances when he continues to engage in that harmful behaviour—and especially not when that behaviour harms others. As a private citizen, he deserves the chance to rehabilitate his life. As an elected office-holder, he deserves no more sympathy and no more patience from us. So many people have done so much more with so much less than Rob Ford: he has been given every opportunity, and he has squandered all of them. He must be exiled from public life.
A few passages from this piece originally appeared on mightgodking.com.