In light of Mayor Rob Ford’s laundry list of shenanigans, Torontonians gathered inside and out of city hall on Nov. 13 to hang him out to dry. Inside the chamber, city councillors urged Ford to respond to recent allegations and confessions of illegal activity, ultimately demanding he take a leave of absence or resign. Meanwhile, hundreds of citizens rallied outside in the hope that Ford will step down, saving Toronto from the man himself and international headlines that are destroying the reputation of the city.
Ford has been accused of smoking crack, bringing prostitutes into his city hall office, public drunkenness, murderous rants, vulgar language, drinking and driving, assaulting staff members, cocaine use in restaurants and associating with well-known gang members in the city – allegations, that until Nov. 5, were evaded or denied.
“Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” Ford declared at an unconventional press conference in Toronto on Nov. 5 – a confession that has made international headlines and late-night comedy shows and rallied political organizations such as Save Toronto. After months of denial, Ford’s elusive nature has intrigued even the least politically inclined individuals. The shock factor and residual disappointment keeps residents wondering, what sort of controversies or allegations could possibly come to light next?
“Hey-hey, ho-ho, Rob Ford has got to go, hey-hey, ho-ho, Rob Ford has got to go,” angry Torontonians chanted outside city hall, carrying signs and writing demands of resignation in chalk on the sidewalk. With signs reading, “Step down or fall down,” “resign,” “My mayor smoked crack and all I got was this lousy sign,” and, most dramatically, a cardboard coffin that read “RIP Crackula” – with an image of Rob Ford below – protesters made sure they were heard inside city hall and all over the downtown core.
Nikki Thomas, a political commentator, Toronto-based escort, online game show host, activist for sex workers’ rights and current Save Toronto spokesperson, took to the stage to reiterate the organization’s position that demands Ford step down.
“Save Toronto is a community effort that sprang up from an online board called Urban Toronto, where one particular thread has been going on for over three years. It was started by a member of Urban Toronto, and it has over 30,000 replies and a million views in the last three years. And it’s simply called “Mayor Ford’s Toronto” … In light of these allegations … eventually people decided that something just had to be done,” Thomas said.
Outside city hall, Thomas blasted Ford, calling the mayor an international laughing stock, emphasizing his history of lying, failing to accomplish election promises and, most notoriously, his very public substance abuse problem that has compromised his political legitimacy and the reputation of Toronto.
“The anger has just reached a fever pitch … it takes a lot for Canadians to take to the streets over something and … actually protest … it’s basically a community effort from a bunch of pissed off Torontonians who are sick and tired of having Rob Ford destroy the reputation of our city,” Thomas said.
The feeling of upset was echoed inside the chamber, where City of Toronto councillors have found themselves redirecting their energy toward restoring political authority by urging Ford to take a leave of absence, seek help or resign. Adding insult to injury, the council is being heavily scrutinized and is unable to focus on everyday issues in Metro Toronto.
When Ford took to the podium on Nov. 13, he was full of apologies and maintained that he is not resigning, much to the amusement of onlookers. “This has definitely been the most humiliating week in my entire life … (but I’m) absolutely not taking a leave of absence. There is no need for me to take a leave of absence,” Ford said, as the chamber murmured and snickered in frustration.
“It’s embarrassing and humiliating and degrading – I wasn’t forced to admit what I did … but we all have skeletons in our closet we wouldn’t want exposed,” Ford said.
“It is crystal clear our future must change … today the whole world is watching us,” said Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong of Ward 34 – Don Valley east, who participated in a council-wide vote that resulted in 37 of the 42 councillors demanding Ford take a leave of absence or resign.
Coun. Minnan-Wong was also targeted by fellow Coun. Doug Ford, who demanded he answer whether or not he has ever used marijuana – a flawed attempt at drawing parallels to his brother’s crack use. “Everyone in this chamber is coming across as holier than thou,” Coun. Doug Ford said.
The trouble, however, is that council does not have the legal authority to remove Ford from his position – that sort of action will have to come from the Ontario government. For the council, the only temporary solution is transitioning mayoral powers to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. The motion to remove as many powers as possible was approved at a meeting Nov. 18, where Ford continued his antics by disrupting council and declaring war against his fellow councillors – claiming this act was much like Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
As the Rob Ford saga continues to grab national and international attention – including television show offers for the mayor and his brother Doug, Saturday Night Live skits based on the Toronto mayor’s antics, continuous media attention, autographing bobble-head versions of himself, being publicly uninvited from mayoral events and an endless cloud of infamy around the man – Torontonians can only watch in horror and wait for what’s next.