Rob Ford is apparently familiar with an approach made famous by George Costanza on Seinfeld: Keep showing up places and sooner or later people will become resigned to your presence.
Ford, the Toronto mayor who drank, smoked, swore, lied, attacked, belittled and sneered his way to international infamy, got a taste of his own medicine this week when he showed up uninvited to an economic club dinner and suffered through a stinging speech that questioned his character and competence.
According to several news reports, Ford unexpectedly attended a Toronto Region Board of Trade (BOT) dinner Monday night at which the spot usually reserved for the city mayor had been given to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.
CP24 reports that organizers found a seat for Ford in the back of the room, but he left when BOT president and CEO Carol Wilding delivered a speech that derided his failures as mayor.
The television news network reported that Wilding, without naming Ford personally, called for better political leadership and urged the crowd of 1,500 business leaders to leave the "distractions" behind in the next election.
The speech was greeted by loud applause. Ford apparently took the cue to leave.
"Thanks to Carol Wilding, President of the @TorontoRBOT for taking the time to personally invite me to tonight's event," read a message later posted to the mayor's Twitter feed, along with an image of a Nov. 11 letter that appeared to invite him to the event.
— Mayor Rob Ford (@TOMayorFord) January 28, 2014
A BOT spokesperson told CP24 that the letter had been sent in error and that Ford had been uninvited shortly after. Earlier in November, Wilding had released a statement calling for the mayor to leave office. Her comments surely came as no surprise.
Rob Ford's time as mayor has been a roller coaster, lurching from drug allegations and denials to police investigations and confessions. It has bounded from a personal vendetta against the chief of police to a string of drunken public indiscretions, to crying wolf about the personal lives of reporters to bizarre dalliances in the U.S. sports radio circuit.
[ More Brew: Arrested Quebec mayor says he’s 'nothing like Rob Ford’ ]
It has become a cartoon. He makes serious budget announcements wearing football jerseys. And when he disappears for an hour and misses a public speaking engagement, the overwhelming concern isn't about his immediate well being, but that he has again fallen off the wagon.
That absence, it should be noted, was at an Economic Club of Canada luncheon and he was late because he got stuck in a freight elevator. Organizers issued full refunds to the 200 or so business leaders who had paid $89 to attend the event.
Ford's brief and apparently unwelcome appearance at the Board of Trade dinner on Monday is the latest and perhaps most dynamic example of a reality Ford has crafted for himself. Over the course of a months-long scandal stemming from allegations, denials and later admissions that he smoked crack cocaine, Ford he refused to consider criticism or hear pleas to seek treatment.
He has rested on his laurels and held tight to the thought that the unwavering support of Ford Nation was all he needed to be re-elected in October (and polls suggest his support base is steady). It isn’t clear whether Ford has considered how he will govern, should he be re-elected.
Former political allies that stepped out of line have been attacked as haters, council’s removal of powers from his office was called “fascist” and Premier Kathleen Wynne’s decision to deal not with Ford but with the newly-empowered deputy mayor has been painted a personal bias.
He is the mayor, but he has undermined the foundation he needs to be a successful city leader. The idea that an event featuring the city's brightest economic minds would not invite him is dismissed as a clerical error.
The serious people dedicated to doing serious jobs, like running governments or building businesses or improving the economy, don't have the time to wait for a mayor to decide whether he'll take his duties seriously this week.
Even if he decides to take his duties seriously this week, we know that next week could be another story.
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