Councillor Doug Ford
Credits: QMI AGENCY PHOTO
In politics, when one becomes radioactive, friends rapidly become few and far between.
Scandal and controversy are usually the cause. A politico gets enmeshed in some sort of mess, and people who previously returned his or her phone calls become elusive. Invitations to events and get-togethers start to dry up. Encounters in public places get awkward. And former colleagues and friends start to drift away.
It’s sometimes unfair, and it’s often painful. But, in politics, that’s just the way it is. As the late Elizabeth Taylor once observed: “You find out who your real friends are when you’re involved in a scandal.”
Rob Ford, the soon-to-be-former mayor of Toronto, is a walking, talking scandal. He is a human shrapnel machine. He is also a disgrace of biblical proportions. When the politics of this era are reviewed, learned people will be bewildered as to how so many people came to cast a ballot for such a colossal idiot.
Because, whether we progressives like or not, many did. When Ford was elected Toronto’s mayor in October 2010, more than 380,000 people voted for him. He beat his main rival, a rebarbative former Liberal politician, by a substantial margin — nearly 100,000 votes. No one considered Ford too radioactive back then.
He’d been controversial, to be sure. He’d been charged with drunk driving and marijuana possession in Florida, the latter charge dismissed.
He had a long and well-chronicled record of bigoted remarks and idiotic behaviour. But plenty of folks voted for him just the same.
If the polls are to be believed, most of those folks are no longer with him. They show (correctly, appropriately) that NDP MP Olivia Chow would beat Ford handily in any mayoralty match-up. Ford is now regarded in the way that a drunken, malodorous uncle is seen at family reunions — a stain on the carpet, one that everyone wants to see removed.
Almost everyone, that is.
This week, Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles T. Hackland — who was elevated to a senior judge’s post by no less than Stephen Harper — ordered Ford removed from the mayor’s chair in Canada’s largest city.
Most of the city want him gone, fed up with his serial scandals. His former allies at city hall are suddenly unenthusiastic about being seen with him.
The media — even organs that were supporters, like the Toronto Sun — are editorializing that Ford is wholly the author of his own misfortune.
But many of Harper’s sheep continue to bleat their support for Ford.
John Carmichael, a Conservative nobody from Don Valley West, told Canadian Press that he feels “very badly” for Ford. Likewise Etobicoke Lakeshore’s Bernard Trottier. Another non-entity, Richmond Hill’s Costas Menegakis, actually called Hackland’s decision “overkill,” even though the matter is still before the courts (Ford is appealing his ouster).
And there is Harper himself, of course. In one videotaped gathering at a backyard Conservative party in 2011, Harper lauded Ford: “We started cleaning up the mess, the left-wing mess, federally in this area. Rob is doing it municipally and now we’ve got to complete the hat trick and do it provincially as well.”
They didn’t, of course — Dalton McGuinty was re-elected for a third time, one seat shy of a majority — but Harper and his minions apparently remain supportive of the stain on the carpet that is Rob Ford. When everyone else with an ounce of common sense has deserted him.
There’s an irony in all of this, of course.
The Harper regime likes to style itself as tough on lawbreakers. But here it is, singing the praises of a lawbreaker, and casting aspersions on the ruling of a judge it promoted.
This both bewilders and delights progressive types. If the Harpies wish to get smeared with Rob Ford’s muck — if they want to get radioactive, too — they’re crazy.
But we progressives are all for it.