Two videos depicting Toronto Mayor Rob Ford up to his old tricks – drunk, slurring, cursing and associating with suspected drug dealers – have seriously undermined the embattled mayor’s attempts to regain credibility. They have also set the city back months, leaving us to relive the same frustrations and shame we had when our mayor was embroiled in possibly the largest drug and confidence scandal to hit Canadian politics.
Ford’s unapologetic return to controversy comes at a difficult time. Months of work had repaired some of his credibility at city hall and beyond. His return to the campaign trail was going according to plan, with sights set on re-election in October. Today, a significant debate about the city’s budget will take place. Ford has left himself a stuttering joke when he needs to be a mayor.
If it was at all possible for a politician to pull himself from the depths of disgrace, to clean up his image, shake off a crack scandal, police investigation and a history of "drunken stupors," to return to somewhere near the edge of legitimacy, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford had seemingly done it.
It has been months since he claimed to swear off alcohol, for the good of the city, off drugs and promised to clean himself up. Since he was seen with any suspected or alleged drug dealers. Since he went on an international television campaign, claimed to have a "come to Jesus" moment and vowed to set himself straight.
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Some of the councillors who had voted to strip him of powers and authorities had begun to show him respect again; bridges he had so spectacularly burned were being rebuilt.
And the nightly jokes on late-night television had come to a rest. They are back now. "Thank you, Canada," host Jimmy Kimmel quipped last night of Ford's latest inebriated video. "This almost makes up for Justin Bieber."
The videos in question are indeed a return to the shameful days of Ford past. This is the Hangover 2 of political scandals: Inevitable, predictable and devoid of humour or positivity. It is all the same storylines, just in a different location.
The saddest part of the latest Ford affair is that absolutely none of it is shocking. It’s all been done before. The inebriated stumbling and mumbling, the culturally offensive accent and the foul language. The mayor of Toronto publicly undermining the Toronto Police Service, his hazy-eyed complaints of injustice and declarations that he is one of the good guys. Ford's dull-witted decision to meet alleged drug trafficker Alexander Lisi in the middle of the night. It’s all been done before.
Not even Ford's declaration that it is none of the public's business what he does on his personal time, after vowing for months that he was done with drugs and alcohol for the sake of the people of Toronto, is surprising at this point.
“I was with some friends and what I do in my personal life with my personal friends ... it has nothing to do with you,” Ford said yesterday, dismissing the entire controversy, while simultaneously undermining his months of apparent hard work and dedication.
The problem is that Ford has made it our business. He is the mayor, but beyond that he is a mayor who found himself at the end of the rope and saved himself by promising to do better.
When he was asked just a week ago whether he had been drinking during a public appearance at a nightclub, he angrily shot back that he doesn’t drink anymore. Even the sincerity of his indignation isn’t believable anymore.
Ford previously said, before he promised to abandon alcohol entirely, that everybody drinks, everybody has been hammered. And if he wanted to get drunk on a Friday night, when he had nothing to do the next morning, then it was his perogative.
This wasn’t a Friday night. This was a Monday night, and he didn’t show up at city hall until 2 p.m. the following day. He left work shortly after 4 p.m. His re-election campaign manager, brother Coun. Doug Ford, guaranteed Ford hadn’t been drinking Monday night. That promise was undermined moments later when the mayor defiantly declared that he had been.
Even Ford’s brother can’t trust his word. The public has given Ford more opportunities to clean up his act than most people receive. He has failed them at every turn.
No one is celebrating the fact that Ford has fallen off the wagon. No one is happy that he has once more failed the city, after an earnest vow never to let it happen again. Rob Ford needs help. And until he gets it he can’t be trusted.
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