The real problem with Rob Ford as mayor isn’t crack or drinking

Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, smokes crack when he’s hammered. He admitted as much and after doing so, his approval rating went up.

It’s not a surprise, really. Admitting you’ve done probably the most stigmatized drug out there, using a drunken stupor as your excuse and then announcing that not only are you not stepping down but plan to run again for mayor of Canada’s largest city takes not only balls but but a certain amount of political genius.

Politics are far too scandal-driven and I think people are sick of it. I’m sick of it. When I see surveillance photos of Ford pissing discretely by a bush, I remember that on more than one occasion, when, say, drinking with friends in a park, I too have temporarily excused myself from the group and taken a discreet leak against a tree.

It’s true that I wasn’t waiting for a crack dealer at the time nor was I the mayor of anything. The first difference is important, the second shouldn’t be, but it is.


Politicians are people and people have failings. If those failings affect their ability to carry out the job they were hired to do, then the public has a right to know them and judge them accordingly. If not, then they don’t, aside from cases of murder, rape or physical violence.

Until now, that hasn’t been the case. Any personal transgression, such as drug use, excessive alcohol use, cheating on a spouse or sleeping with a sex worker have been grounds for resignation or the kind of stuff opponents dig up during a campaign to prevent a candidate from being elected.

Now all that may change. If Ford sticks with his plan to run again and makes it to the election (let’s be honest, he’s not in the best health), then there’s really nothing his opponents could dig up on him. Anything they do find would most likely pale in comparison to what’s already out there and admitted to.

He may win. Hell, if I lived in Toronto, I might even vote for him. Not because he smokes crack, but because he’s planning to run in spite of scandal.

He’s the litmus test for the elimination of the power of scandal in politics. Unfortunately, he’s also Rob Ford.

He’s the mayor who thinks it’s okay to divert city busses for the football team he coaches. That’s a problem, falling over while throwing a football isn’t.

He’s the mayor who wants to make things as difficult for cyclists (and even joggers) as possible. That’s a problem, having a physique that doesn’t lend itself to those activities isn’t.

He’s also the mayor who gropes his former opponents at public functions when he’s loaded. The groping is a problem, so is his being drunk at a public function, alcoholism on his own time is a personal issue and not the public’s concern.

His hypocrisy is. He was elected as a Harper-loving, law and order anti-gang, anti-drug candidate, but apparently what’s good for others isn’t good for him. If you want to hang with drug dealers in your spare time, don’t try to jail them when at work and not just because some of them may have cameras.

support rob ford billboard
Billboards supporting Ford have been popping up around Toronto (photo by Stephanie Smyth via Twitter)

I wish the crackhead mayor was someone else, someone whose politics I could get behind. Then eliminating the politics of personal scandal would be a truly positive change.

Defeating Rob Ford should be about defeating what he stands for politically. Unfortunately, if he does lose or resign, almost everyone will think it’s because of the crack and drinking and nothing else.

If Ford wins, it will deal a blow to personal identity scandal politics, which is a good thing, but it will also reinforce his lousy policies. If he loses or resigns, almost everyone will think it’s about the crack and drinking and nothing else, what he stood for politically will still be viable and personal scandal will still be a way to defeat political opponents.

Rob Ford should lose or resign, but not because of crack or drinking, but rather in spite of them.

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