From Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Colbert Report to Saturday Night Live, Rob Ford has become the butt of many jokes. Our mayor has become no more than an entertaining story to run, especially in the US, during a slow news cycle. It is noteworthy that Ford is not just portrayed as a mayor that smokes crack; he is known more specifically as the mayor of Toronto that smokes crack. The question that intrigues me as a born and raised Torontonian is if we should really be concerned for our city’s international reputation?
Perhaps I am too laid-back to get heated over this topic, but I care more about public policy than public indecency. I also do not think that Rob Ford will have any kind of significant effect on my life, like triggering a municipal or national recession, destroying our political system forever, or even wreaking crack-and-vodka-driven havoc on our streets.
In reality, the position of mayor of Toronto has fairly limited powers. The mayor counts as one vote on city council and has no vetoing power. He has the power of the media, appointment, staff, and funds — but all councillors have these to some degree as well. Ultimately, a great mayor could use these advantages strategically and control council through persuasion. But Ford, now left without council support, with the notable exception of his brother Doug Ford, lacks the power to really affect policy making in Toronto. Even if maintaining his office and title is too much control in some citizens’ eyes. Council has stripped many of Ford’s powers leaving him basically limited to going to Argonaut’s games and being discussed in all of my political science classes.
This is where my concern for the issue stops. If Rob Ford does not actually have the power to influence what I care about in my city’s politics — policy — then who cares if he is an embarrassment? Toronto is an amazing city in many ways, and the fact that we can function so well with a mayor that smokes crack shows our resiliency and functionality. In fact, I would argue it represents Toronto accurately in one area particularly. Toronto is not filled with alcoholics, crack addicts, or disrespectful people, but it is filled with people who have a sense of humour and an understanding of where our priorities lie. Torontonians knew Ford was a scandalous councillor before he was elected, and he was elected because he promised to stop the gravy-train at City Hall. Torontonians value policy over distasteful conduct, which in my opinion is not a bad thing.
As publicists would say, all press is good press. No one can call Canada boring anymore, eh?
Christina Atkinson is a second-year student at University College.