What the mayor of Toronto does and how the city’s voters respond is none of my business, because I live in Ottawa, but I can’t help following Rob Ford’s escapades. And I was struck by the structure of this weekend Globe feature by the paper’s excellent Ian Brown.
Ford has lately been taking a hell of a lot of time off work, and allocating fairly substantial City of Toronto resources, including the time of other staffers, to help coach a high-school football team. A lot of people wish he wouldn’t. A lot of people think this is an inappropriate allocation of taxpayer resources. And by “a lot of people,” I mean “most of the Torontonians I follow on Twitter.”
But Brown decided to take it to the street, and the results (with emphasis added by me so you’ll see what caught my attention) are intriguing:
Take a lunch-hour walk in front of Toronto’s City Hall and ask people what they think of Mayor Rob Ford’s decision this week to exit a city council executive committee meeting five-and-a-half hours early to attend a scrimmage of the high-school football team he coaches.
Everyone says the same thing. They say they don’t mind if the coach – or the mayor, if you prefer – slips off during office hours to volunteer for his players. They say everyone takes unscheduled time off work anyway, and that the mayor will do what everyone does and make up the time later.
“I think most people put in more time than they’re paid for,” one woman tells me. And Mr. Ford is one of us.
“It’s the standard Ford-defence theory,” Brown continues, waving his hands frantically. “Mr. Ford can do anything he likes… because Ford’s Army, the base of suburban-commuter conservatives who handed him the chain of office in 2010, will guarantee his re-election as the bully with a heart of gold who stands up to effete, bike-riding elitists.
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“But this week may have seen the straw that broke even his supporters’ camel-like backs…”
Having thus wrapped “everyone” he could find at Nathan Phillips Square into one bundle of “suburban-commuter conservatives” with odd backs who don’t like bicycles, Brown sets them aside and they do not further trouble his narrative.
Look, I don’t think a mayor should be skipping council meetings to coach football, and I certainly don’t think he should be ordering City Hall staffers to come along with him on taxpayer time. I think Ford has been a highly problematic mayor. But as I said, I don’t live there, and the headline on Ian’s piece is, “Have Torontonians had enough of Rob Ford?”, and based on his own reporting the answer seems to be “Nope.” I think that fact demands more attention and reflection from reporters.