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Thursday 15 August 2013

The Devil and Danforth Fords

I keep hearing that to get ahead, you can't get mired in the details, but I dunno - seems to me it's the folk who don't weigh the consequence of their actions are the ones having a devil of a time in the headlines...
Rob Ford Didn’t Drink at Taste of the Danforth
If Rob Ford "had a few pops" at the street festival, why didn't anyone see him drinking?
I was at a bar drinking with friends Friday recapping a story published in the Toronto Sun just hours earlierWhy a Convicted Drug Dealer Burst Into Rob Ford’s Home Demanding Money—when I got a notification about new video of Ford, apparently inebriated at Taste of the Danforth. Such is the pace of these stories.
At the time I laughed and shook my head. Of course I know about his alleged alcohol problems, but I wasn’t thinking about it too deeply as I was out myself and I hadn’t yet seen the video or read about the events. My cursory understanding was that the mayor was participating at an event offering food and alcohol, and got videotaped sloppy drunk.
I doubted this was a big deal even by Saturday, tweeting that he was out on a Friday night, that perhaps he was in a sour mood after the Sun story broke and drank too much. He said in the video he wasn’t driving. He and Doug said he had a couple beers, and we’ve seen him drunk in public before. To get really excited about a new Ford story, he needs to push the boundaries into new territory.
But on second thought this is wrong. That this apparently isn’t a story because it’s not shocking is the problem. If the mayor has a substance abuse problem, it’s serious, and we shouldn’t become less concerned the more it shows itself. This incident was misrepresented at first, and it becomes very troubling when we look at the discrepancies between what we know happened and Doug Ford’s explanation of Rob Ford’s outing.
We know that the mayor failed to arrive at the Taste of the Danforth event where he was scheduled to appear. His staffers were there but he was absent, so they left. The Sun reports that Ford drove to Taste of the Danforth alone. He didn’t park quite at the festival, but two kilometres away on Greenwood Avenue a bit south of Danforth, around the corner from a Beer Store. Nobody saw him arrive or saw him behind the steering wheel. Once standing beside the driver’s seat outside the car, residents recognized him and a crowd emerged. One began filming. This is why he is beside his car in the footage. An eyewitness, the man videotaping, states that soon there were ten residents beside the mayor. Ford did not smell of drugs or alcohol, but residents were concerned about how he arrived in what appeared to be an inebriated state.
In the video, Rob claims “I wasn’t driving” three times. A witness claimed “he wasn’t making much sense. The mayor looked like he was totally out of it. He was slurring.” Also, “he would sway back and forth.” The mayor asked for cologne. (Various media suggested the mayor asked for “coke” or “blow” when he pointed to his nose, but the eyewitness heard him talk about cologne for a while and believes he only said “cologne” in the video.) The crowd followed him to the Tim Hortons where numerous people offered to buy Ford coffee. About an hour after Rob Ford was spotted beside his car, 4 or 5 staffers appeared with 10 police in tow. The staffers, who only learned of his whereabouts via social media, were reported to have looked concerned, unable to control the mayor. The mayor was driven home. The only substance Rob Ford was seen consuming was the publicly purchased Tim Hortons coffee.
It is possible that Ford parked his car earlier in the evening, walked two kilometres to the festival where he had “a beer or two,” returned another two kilometres to get something from his car at about 9:30, then was spotted by residents, one of whom proceeded to videotape him. But given how instantly he is recognized and hounded for photographs, it’s unlikely that nobody took a picture or video of the mayor drinking a couple beers at a major festival thousands of Torontonians attended.
On Sunday, Doug Ford addressed the incident on his radio show: “Have I seen my brother hammered in his life? Ya, I have. Have I seen him with a couple of drinks? Yeah…[but] Rob doesn’t sit there in public and start hammering away on drinks. It just never happened.” Even if we take Doug at his word, nobody actually saw Rob drink at Taste of the Danforth. Anyway, Doug should not be taken at his word. Though he very glibly admitted that, of course, he has seen his brother hammered, in March he fervently denied that Rob drinks alcohol at all.
On Tuesday, reporters asked Doug, “Did the mayor tell you where he was drinking? A lot of people were concerned because the first place he was spotted was standing outside his car.” Doug dismissed the question and accused the reporters of playing “investigative reporter.” This is precisely the question that needs answering. Did the mayor drive under the influence?
If there is an innocent explanation for how the mayor came to be videotaped alone and inebriated beside his vehicle, one would expect a Ford staffer to clarify it and end the speculation at once. But the longer this goes unanswered the more damning it is. Instead of clarifying, Doug went on the attack, making falsehoods against councillors who recommended the mayor to take a leave of absence to get help, saying that Councillor Jaye Robinson, “couldn’t perform in her job” and that Shelley Carroll “put the city into hundreds of millions of dollars into debt.”  
The Fords frequently allege their superiority by citing their success in the business world, and they disparage colleagues on these grounds too, saying councillors would be out of work if they were subject to the free market. So let’s transpose this Danforth incident and its response into free market terms.
 Let’s imagine that the city was truly run as a business. Citizens play the shareholders invested in the company depending on CEO Rob Ford to manage their money. The shareholders ask CEO Rob: “Why did you miss a staff event? You getting filmed inebriated beside your vehicle is very bad for business. Explain, please.” Imagine shareholders satisfied with, “I don’t believe I did offend anyone, and if I did, you know what, I had a good time, I let my hair down a bit.”
The company can forgive Ford for missing the event, but profit is threatened if the perception persists that the CEO operated his vehicle under the influence, so the question is put again: “Where and when did you drink the alleged beers? You admitted you drank them, you must reveal where this took place.” But the CEO refuses to answer and instead Doug, a lower-level employee unauthorized to speak for the CEO, says, “He had a couple of pops, big deal, in the end, nobody got hurt, everyone had a good time.”
While the above situation is an allegory, the quotations are really Rob and Doug Ford’s. In the business world, nobody would dare be so impertinent and hope to keep their job. Ironically, if the Fords were held accountable to their cherished view of politics conducted by the rules of business, they’d be fired. After this affront, I doubt the business world would be so generous as to afford them a third chance to explain that night’s events, but this is politics; the Fords are still very much here and we are still very much owed an explanation into why a night that should have been spent celebrating food has devolved into speculating about exactly how our mayor got inebriated and whether or not he broke the law and put people’s lives at risk.
Jeff Halperin is a Toronto-based writer. You can follow him on Twitter @JDhalperin.
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