Rob Ford crack revelation caused chaos, buried Boston friendship agreement

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford arrives at a meeting in Mississauga where he, along with a handful of other GTA mayors, will press the province for money to help cover ice storm cleanup costs.

Panicked councillors, harried staffers, a cancelled trip to Boston and … an earthquake?

When the revelation that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was caught smoking crack on video first hit the city in May, it was a chaotic time for the Big Smoke. So chaotic, in fact, that the city suffered through an earthquake and no one seemed to notice.

While there isn't really a connection between the May 17 earthquake and reports from the Toronto Star and Gawker of a video showing Ford smoke crack cocaine, details of the earthquake were among a frenetic series of emails passed between Ford's inner circle in the days after the crack video revelation.

The Toronto Sun has obtained more than 7,000 pages of staff emails from May and June through a freedom of information request. And while the emails don't necessarily break any new ground on the simmering crack scandal, they do offer insight into the chaos it caused in the Mayor's Office.

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The Sun's Don Peat scanned through the trove of emails sent and received by key Ford staff members. In all cases, those staffers no longer work in the Mayor's Office. At the time, it was all they could do to keep their heads above water.

Perhaps the most prescient email was the one that kicked off the whole affair - an inquiry from Gawker editor John Cook for response to his impending crack story.

Ford eventually denied smoking crack cocaine and suggested the video in question did not exist. He later confessed that he has smoked crack cocaine in one of his "drunken stupors" and Toronto police have confirmed the existence of the video. Ford said his earlier denials were because reporters never asked the "right question" – suggesting the dozens of journalists who covered the story over the course of weeks never actually asked him whether he had ever smoked crack.

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The emails that followed the crack revelation included a panicked request for contact from city manager Joe Pennachetti, a discussion on how and when to respond to the allegations and an email from Coun. Norm Kelly (later named deputy mayor) that read simply, "Oh, boy!!!"

According to Peat, one of the first casualties to the crack scandal was a planned trip to Boston, where Ford was expected to sign a friendship agreement – similar to the one he signed with Austin, Texas.

An agenda for a two-day trip in June had been prepared, but the trip disappeared from the schedule following the crack video revelations. A separate friendship agreement with Rio was previously confirmed to have been killed by the Ford's crack scandal.

The October Austin trip, which occurred after the crack scandal broke but before he confessed, has been held up by Ford as an indication that it was business as usual at city hall and that the controversy was not having a negative impact on Toronto's international reputation.

Ford's crack confession sent waves of concern through Austin's political scene and economic development committee chair, Coun. Michael Thompson, was forced to write a reassuring letter to Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

Had a similar relationship been crafted with Boston, similar concerns would presumably have been raised and a similar response would have been required.

It a bit of a shame. Boston is a beautiful town and much closer to Toronto than Austin. That would have been a nice relationship to cultivate.

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