Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Please ... Rob Ford was no working class saint

I have resisted thus far commenting on the death of ex-Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who died recently of a rare form of cancer at the tender age of 46.
Over the years, I have spent more than enough time in this blog vilifying the guy, as have many others. He was, without doubt, one of the worst mayors Toronto has ever had, and has caused significant damage to the city, its institutions, and its reputation.
All of that still applies even though he is now dead. But it seems I am now suppose to suddenly mellow and forgive all the bad stuff, and admit that - aw, shucks - he wasn't such a bad guy after all, just misunderstood, and the victim of a vindictive press and his own personal failings.
Well, I am sorry, but I just can't do that. Yes, I feel sorry for anyone dying of cancer before their time. I can even empathise with those suffering from various addictions. But that is as a person, an individual, and I didn't know Rob Ford as a person, I only knew him as a mayor. And as a mayor, he sucked.
If he had addiction issues with crack cocaine and alcohol, I kind of understand that, but that just made it inappropriate for him to have continued as mayor of a huge city, and he should have stepped down. He only became mayor in the first place as a protest vote, a change-for-the-sake-of-change appointment, a serendipitous case of being in the right place at the right time. He was Toronto's Donald Trump of the period, and his appeal was to a similar demographic and political profile as Trump's constituency.
He didn't achieve half of what he campaigned on, and most of what he did achieve is unlikely to be remembered fondly in the clear light of the future. Personally answering constituents' phone calls is really not an efficient use of a mayor's time (even if it does make for good optics and PR), and Ford's "respect for taxpayers" mantra was a cynical twisting of what he actually offered the people of Toronto. A recent article by Marcus Gee provides an excellent perspective on Mr. Ford's (few) achievements and (many) failings as Mayor.
So, rest in peace and all that, but please, let's not resurrect Rob Ford as some kind of working class saint. He was a rich man's son with less interest in the working man than in his own career and media profile. He will no doubt be much missed by friends and family, but that doesn't mean that the rest of us have to follow suit.

Rob Ford's funeral yesterday was an appropriately bizarre mix of solemn service and raucous Ford Nation rally. Although the ill-defined "Ford Nation" is much reduced from its heyday, many of its more rabid supporters turned out to the funeral to say goodbye, some bedecked with flags and buttons and chanting slogans like "Best Mayor Ever" and "Mayor Rob Ford Forever", and in one memorable case, "Rob Ford, Son of God".
Ford's 10-year old daughter read a eulogy concluding with the cringe-worthy, "He's the mayor of Heaven now", and his brother Doug (failed mayoral candidate, and no longer even a councillor) used the occasion for a quick political plug, vowing to carry on the work Rob started.
All in all, it was a combination of earnestness and crassness entirely appropriate as a public farewell to a divided and divisive man.

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