Canada: Crack-smoking mayor won’t quit

“I’m only human,” said Toronto Mayor Rob Ford after admitting to smoking crack “in one of my drunken stupors.”

Toronto’s mayor has lost any pretense of integrity, said Rosie DiManno in the Toronto Star. Rob Ford has been exposed as “a liar, a fraud, and—possibly the least of his sins—an apparent smoker of crack cocaine.” Police have arrested his friend and sometime driver, Sandro Lisi, for alleged extortion in attempting to get hold of a video of Ford smoking something out of a crack pipe. When the Star and first reported on the video in the spring, Ford was snide and defensive. “Trashing the reputation of this newspaper and its reporters,” he insisted there was no such tape. Had he admitted his crime back then, perhaps he could have entered rehab and sought forgiveness. But that’s not Ford’s style. “He always denies, fabricates, smears everybody in the vicinity, and only belatedly comes quasi-clean when confronted with irrefutable evidence.” Now he stands revealed as “an unprincipled hypocrite.” Only after widespread calls for his resignation did he admit this week to smoking crack “in one of my drunken stupors,” adding, “I’m only human.”

I almost feel sorry for him, said Christie Blatchford in the National Post. “He really was always seen by the city’s governing class as a boob who didn’t belong.” Instead of a polished, articulate suit from the urban center, Ford is a crass high-school football coach from the suburbs, who spoke for the car-driving commuters rather than the tree-hugging public transport crowd. The progressives have long been slavering for any excuse to bring him down, and Ford has now given them an easy one by being a substance abuser. I’m not saying he was a victim, yet “I’m damned if I don’t sometimes see him that way.”

That’s certainly how he sees himself, said Royson James in the Toronto Star. He gave a vague apology but never actually said he was sorry for lying to us about his substance problems. The mayor has been “photographed and recorded engaging in clandestine meetings” with Lisi “in parks, paths, parking lots, and under suspicious conditions” where manila envelopes and plastic bags were exchanged. Is he sorry for that? Will we make him sorry? Some blame his brother, Councilman Doug Ford, for enabling the lying and the drug use. Yet “Torontonians are his greatest enablers, either by remaining silent as a majority or being vocal as a minority of supporters.” His popularity has actually gone up, not down, since the story broke last week, and he won’t resign.

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Then we have to force him out, said Emmett Macfarlane in The Globe and Mail. That there is no impeachment mechanism for a mayor is a flaw in our democracy. As the law stands, only a criminal conviction could wrench Ford out of the mayor’s seat, and police don’t have enough evidence to bring charges. Yet “the standards to which we hold political leaders need to be higher than those we use to decide whether someone should be charged with a criminal offence.” It’s time for the province of Ontario to step in and create an impeachment process. Ford has amply shown that he is “unfit to hold public office.”

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