Anti-Ford campaign in limbo with Rob Ford absent from city hall

Matthew Coutts
Chris Caple, right, begins what he is promising will be a lengthy sit in in front of Rob Ford's office today. With him is fellow protester Geoff Martin.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has taken a temporary leave of absence from city hall amid fresh reports of drunken boorishness, offensive comments and alleged drug use, though that hasn’t stopped him from making headlines.

Since Ford announced he would seek treatment for an addiction to alcohol last week, he has been turned around at the U.S. border, faced questions about the veracity of his rehab stint and is now doing interviews explaining how “amazing” rehab actually is.

On top of that, his brother Doug is doing his best to fan speculation that he will launch his own mayoral campaign. Clearly, Ford’s presence is still being felt in Toronto.

His shadow, however, is not darkening any doorways at city hall. And this has created a bit of an identity crisis for a group of Torontonians dedicated to seeing Ford leave office. The Rob Ford Must Go campaign has been holding an ongoing sit-in outside the mayor’s office for the past 85 days.

More than 200 people have participated in the rolling demonstration, promising that they will remain until Rob Ford is gone. With Ford now gone, albeit temporarily, the movement is in a state of limbo. Organizer Chris Caple spoke with Yahoo Canada News about what comes next.

What’s the best name for the Rob Ford Must Go movement? A campaign? A protest?

I don’t know, it’s been a sit-in up until now. But we’re realizing now that it is more of a campaign. The sit-in has been our main tactic; it is the one thing we are doing the most of. But what we are realizing is that it doesn’t have much impact if Ford is not there. So we are in the process of winding it down and shifting to other tactics in his absence.

You’ve been at city hall for more than 80 days, what has been the most surprising?

In order for something to be surprising you would have to have expectations, and I didn’t really have any expectations about how this would go. I will say that it was surprising that Ford suddenly just up and said he’s going to rehab. Rehab in air quotes. It was surprising to have four giant news stories explode, one after the other, last Wednesday. That was surprising.

Yeah, that was surprising.

He had no plans of going into rehab. That was not in the cards, it was not on the table. He thought he was getting away with everything. But then it all came out.

In terms of your issues with him, the personal failings and comments, would a successful rehab stint settle the matter?

Oh, hell no. The alcohol and drug abuse – you take those away and Rob Ford is still a horrible person and a terrible mayor. Those got the headlines; those have been what compelled the public attention. But they are fundamentally peripheral to the general, basic awfulness of Rob Ford as a human and as a mayor.

He is worse sober than he is when he’s drunk. The council meeting in November, when he and his brother were going after the public gallery, talking and yelling and creating havoc, and when he bowled into Coun. (Pam) McConnell and knocked her over. That is stone cold sober Rob Ford. He delights in creating mayhem and takes glee in inflicting harm and misery on people who he perceives to be his political opponents or people who aren’t ‘real’ people.

He’s horrible. If he is in rehab, which I personally doubt, and actually does get cleaned up and come back in three months, which I personally doubt, he’ll be worse than ever.

Why do you think he went away now? For optics?

Yep, absolutely. There was no plan. This was their Hail Mary pass. Is it possible he is actually checked into some rehab facility? I guess it’s possible. A legitimate rehab facility? Maybe. I don’t know, and I’m not sure it matters. The key thing right now is that he is gone. It is just temporary, sure, we don’t know for how long.

But for whatever reason, wow, he’s not here. It is fantastic. I was on the streetcar yesterday and realized it feels like Toronto again for the first time in I don’t know how long. This feeling of the city being held hostage by a complete lunatic and being on edge 24/7, wondering what fresh hell was about to descend upon us was absent. I’m good with that. I’m really good with just enjoying that.

So this may not be the end, but it’s a vacation.

Let’s enjoy it. Let’s ignore the hell out of the guy, and let’s really enjoy this. And in the mayoral campaign, let’s have tons of debates. Let’s have the candidates who are not totally crazy debate real issues without being derailed by this screaming, shouting, lying lunatic. We can be adults now. We don’t have to have this man-child taking up all the oxygen.

Where does this leave the Rob Ford Must Go sit-in?

We are having a discussion and trying to arrive at a consensus on the best thing to do. The sit-in is a tactic, it has been our main tactic. But there is other stuff that we can do. This is a large change in terms of what is happening, so it requires analysis. From my perspective, I don’t think the sit-in makes a lot of sense any more. The whole point of it was to be right in front of his office so that he would see it constantly. There was a broader symbolic aspect, but the point was being directly in front of him. He’s not there, so that point is absent now.

So if Rob Ford returns, will your sit-in be at city hall?

If he comes back and he doesn’t resign and he doesn’t withdraw, we’ll be back. We’re back full time, full on. Whatever the scenario is, if it requires us to be at city hall then we will be at city hall.

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