All the Mayor’s Horses


Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.

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34 Responses

  1. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The continued inability of people to keep quiet when it will really be in the best interest to do so, continues to astound.Report

  2. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Do you think he will last until the end of term or resign before that?

    From what I’ve heard, Rob Ford appeals to the Palin-esque set among Canadians and he was elected in a suburban v. urban core divide with the suburbs being his constituents. Other Canadians have analogized his supporters to the Tea Party and willing to stick by anyone to spite someone if it spites the left.

    Would you say this is true?Report

    • There’s a lot of truth to this. I traded emails with Tod about this. Rob Ford’s support was based in the “905”, the suburbs around the core city (905 being the area code of those suburbs). Toronto, especially the downtown, is much more left wing than the suburbs, which are solid conservative territory.

      You also have to throw in the fact that the last mayor, David Miller, was quite left wing and made a real hash of things, so Ford tapped into a desire for change, and change towards “fiscal responsibility” and less spending. Ford was also a popular councillor (sort of), known for his straight-talking anti-PC ways, which can be very appealing. He also had a splintered (and weak) opposition in the election, and no other candidates on the right.

      There’s no doubt that he appeals to a reactionary conservative base… hell, that’s exactly what he is, though he’s a bit of a caricature of that type of figure. Throw the clear disdain of the left wing Toronto Star, and you had a very Palin-esque set up with a everyman councillor against the elitist eggheads.

      But we shouldn’t forget Toronto’s history. One of their recent mayors actually said (while in office), “What the hell would I want to go to a place like Mombasa for?…I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me.”Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        When I taught in Japan, a lot of my colleagues and housemates were Canadian and they told me about Jewish-Canada (We have Jews!) and this was a story that came up. My colleague tried to make it sound more like a light-hearted joke that went horribly wrong than an outright racist statement.

        I find that Canadian socio-cultural politics are really similar to American socio-cultural politics in many ways but are just different enough to catch you off guard. I can’t think of a metropolitan area in the US that would have liberals and Palinistas voting in the same election for a mayor (maybe San Diego or Dallas or Houston). Our cities and suburbs tend to be independent politically though I believe Annexation was an issue in Toronto and the rise of Ford. Basically, I can’t see any city in the U.S. where Bill De Blasio would be up against a Sarah Palin type politician with each having an equal shot.

        Then again Canada also has Quebecois and Francophone issues to deal with. How much of Canada has red v. blue type culture war politics? Is Yellowknife very Palinesque?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        I’m confused. The suburbs of Toronto vote for the mayor of Toronto? So these “suburbs” aren’t separate municipalities, just outer-ring neighborhood?Report

      • @jm3z-aitch

        I stand to be corrected, but I understand some time ago, say in the last 10 or 20 years, Toronto became a multi-district government of some sort, so that the mayor would be elected by the entire metropolitan area.

        Again, I stand to be corrected here.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:


        I think there was annexation some time ago.Report

      • From Wikipedia:

        The Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto was a senior level of municipal government in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area from 1954 to 1998. It was created out of York County and was a precursor to the later concept of a regional municipality, being formed of smaller municipalities but having more responsibilities than a county or district. It was commonly referred to as “Metro” or “Metro Toronto” to avoid confusion with the original city of Toronto, which was one of its constituent municipalities.

        Passage of the 1997 City of Toronto Act caused the 1998 amalgamation of Metro Toronto and its constituents into the present City of Toronto. The boundaries of present-day Toronto are the same as those of Metropolitan Toronto upon its dissolution: Lake Ontario to the south, Etobicoke Creek and highway 427 to the west, Steeles Avenue to the north, and the Rouge River to the east.

        I’m still not sure I understand the situation well, but that’s the kind of thing I had in mind when I wrote my comment above.Report

      • There used to be the city of Toronto and a bunch of municipalities surrounding the city. These other municipalities were all pretty much suburbs of Toronto, and all together, Toronto and the surrounding municipalities were essentially one city.

        Around 1999-2000, the province legislated that Toronto and the surrounding municipalities would be amalgamated and become a “mega-city”. They same was done with Hamilton and the surrounding Halton region, and with Ottawa and Ottawa-Carleton region.

        Generally, these amalgamations made a lot of sense. There were often regional governments operating independently of the municipalities, and it was pretty silly and wasteful. In some situations, the amalgamation wasn’t perfect (in Ottawa, the city now stretches out into some pretty rural areas… though they’ll all probably become suburbs or exurbs soon enough).Report

      • I think the other thing here, which caught me off guard when I first moved to Toronto and then to the next city over, Hamilton, is that Torontonians have this reputation across Canada of being… I don’t know, sort of unbearably smug. They can tend to overestimate the importance of Toronto in the world at large (when I lived there, I often heard Toronto compared to Paris or London as one of those “world class cities”) and can also be less polite than the average Canuck. So, Toronto bashing is similar to Palinite gripes about urban elites, but more widespread. i.e.'s_All_Hate_Toronto
        I think this probably plays into the support of “Ford Nation.”Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        Paris is not a world class city. To even think of Toronto as being such…
        *shakes head*Report

      • They can tend to overestimate the importance of TorontoChicago in the world at large (when I lived there, I often heard TorontoChicago compared to Paris or London as one of those “world class cities”) and can also be less polite than the average Canuck human being.

        (Fixed it for you to reflect my experiences.)Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        Thanks, all. Now I’m tempted to write at length about the research on such agglomerations, but I’ll restrain myself.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:


        So Toronto is the New York City of Canada basically?


        More seriously, it seems like a lot of people either think NYC is the place can never leave or the place you should visit but never live. Andrew Sullivan announced he is leaving New York. There is also the famous Joan Didion essay “Goodbye to All That”, and a Patton Oswalt rant about living in NYC.

        It probably fits all cities including San Francisco.Report

      • Yeah, they definitely think of it as the New York of Canada. I guess if you squint really hard and replace Andy Warhol, Woody Allen, Herman Melville, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, and the Ramones with Jim Carrey, SCTV and the Viletones the comparison totally holds up.

        I kid! I kid!Report

      • @rufus-f There’s an old Canadian TV show that pretty much tries to do that, Night Heat.

      • I went to Toronto twice to do dissertation research, and each time I found the people there to be almost uniformly polite. I had the same experience doing research in Ottawa, too.Report

    • To answer your first question, I have no idea if he’ll make it to the end of his term. He shouldn’t. He should resign, but he doesn’t really seem like that kind of guy. I’d guess he’ll try to hang on as long as possible.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Not to mention his being that dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard.Report

  4. Avatar Shazbot9 says:

    I’m less likely to resent someone or say they are worthy of blame and derision than your average conservative, especially if the someone has an addiction. I think all addicts deserve help and forgiveness and should not be held responsible for their crimes.

    But there has to be two caveats for that forgiveness. 1. They must admit their problem and stop lying about it. 2. If they have power over others ( for example children, spouse, employees) they must apologize for harming those they have power over.

    Ford meets neither criteria.

    I am sure that he soon will meet both criteria and then I will feel compassion and no derision, but until then he needs to feel our approbation of his lying and obfuscating, in the form of humor and derision is ideal for a politician.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Shazbot9 says:

      I gotta agreed. I don’t know much about his guy, but he’s not worth my sympathy. He’s a hypocrite, a liar, and worthly of derision, and that’s redundant since he’s a politician. When he admits his faults and quits, after apologizing, I’ll think marginally better of him-but not much.

      Looks like he’s being richly rewarded for has past sins. Karma’s a bitch innit?Report

    • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to Shazbot9 says:

      I’m less likely to resent someone or say they are worthy of blame and derision than your average conservative, especially if the someone has an addiction.

      So, you’re saying you shan’t be extending any compassion to this guy, since he hasn’t yet earned it, even while confirming that you’re still better than the average conservative. Are you better than a conservative because of or in spite of the fact that you won’t pass up the chance to kick a broken man?

      Also, are you sure you mean “approbation”?Report

      • Avatar Shazbot9 in reply to krogerfoot says:

        No, I mean disapprobation. Irregardless, of my unproper use of wordities, my point stands.

        He is not “down” at all according to him.

        I will offer him forgiveness when he asks for it, which he has not.

        Note that many “tough on crime” and “you deserve your poverty for making bad choices” conservatives are not forgiving of even the people asking for forgiveness and a second chance.

        Very Christian of them.Report

      • Avatar krogerfoot in reply to krogerfoot says:

        Addiction is very much a “but for the grace of God” kind of thing. Jonathan says we must remember that this jerkbag is a fellow human being, hurtling toward a fate in which a political downfall and public humiliation will assuredly be the least of his problems. It is a profoundly moral point.

        Your point is so banal that it’s hardly worth noticing, but for the delicious combination of preening self-righteousness and absence of self-awareness. If you’ve suffered some especial injury due to Rob Ford’s behavior, if he’s personally hurt you in some way, then I’m the one being uncharitable here. If not, though, you’re using a man’s personal tragedy as a little club to beat his political tribe with.

        When addiction ate its way through my family, in a very Red state, some of the people who held out their compassion and charity were Bible-thumping political conservatives. Some of the people who turned their backs on their flesh and blood had impeccable progressive credentials and a voting record identical to mine. The converse was also true.

        My own banal point is that politics had approximately fuck-all to do with the issue, and obviously, I get bent out of shape with people who want to shoehorn it in (as well as with the little goblins they attract, gleefully saying “karma’s a bitch!”). If this pathetic story reassures you that at least you’re morally superior to your political foes, lovely, but you discredit yourself thoroughly by proclaiming it.Report

      • @krogerfoot

        I almost completely agree with you. My principal reservation is that when it comes to self-righteous condemnation for others, that, too, is a “there but for the grace of god go I” phenomenon.

        In the abstract, I don’t like the idea of kicking Mr. Ford or anyone else while they’re down. But I can’t say I have never felt something like a surge of glee when someone who I disliked suffered a reversal or comeuppance that they had coming. I don’t think it’s right to indulge that gleefulness or to insist on special conditions for forgiveness, at least not if one hasn’t been specifically hurt by that person’s actions. But sometimes I choose the more vicious and less virtuous path.

        And again, I mostly agree with you.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot9 in reply to krogerfoot says:

        So do you extend the “there but for the grace of God” forgiveness to unrepentant liquor store robbers who stole to feed their addiction? Or do you, like many conservatives, favor a “three strikes and your out” and “mandatory minimum” and “tough on drugs, tough on crime” and “they broke the law in coming here so they should be deported” approach to public policy?

        Or does the forgiveness of the unrepentant only flow to white conservative men who piss off liberals?

        Again, Ford doesn’t want your forgiveness. He says that he has done nothing wrong.Report

      • @shazbot9

        You may have addressed your question to Krogerfoot and not me, but I’ll say that the ideal I aspire to is to forgive everyone, even white conservatives who piss off liberals. If I forgive only the sympathetic people or people I might be inclined to agree with in some circumstances, my forgiveness is cheaply come by and not worth much.

        Do I actually live by or even approach that ideal? Not by a long shot. I’m not Jesus Christ. It’s much easier for me to forgive people like Mr. Ford precisely because I haven’t been a direct victim of his shenanigans.

        But that one person who insulted me several years ago in grad school? I’m still dealing with trying to forgive him, even though my “injury” in no way compares to that suffered by others and the “insult” in no way compares to the shortcomings that Mr. Ford, apparently, has demonstrated.

        As a corollary, I don’t have much standing to criticize you for placing conditions according to which you might forgive Mr. Ford. I disagree with doing so, and I have a certain right to disagree and express my disagreement, but I really do not wish to judge you for your stance without judging myself first. Motes and beams and all that.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to krogerfoot says:


        If you’re going to make references to something I post, I’d appreciate if you include my name. That way I’ll know someone has commented on my comment, allowing me to respond. If you’re going to call me names, I prefer Troll over Goblin, but I identify more with Dark Elf.

        I really don’t understand this whole forgiveness crap. After a high school friend, who I worked for briefly, screwed me out of 5K USD, people said “you should forgive him”. Nuts to that. I’ll forgive him when you contacts me directly, apologies for his actions, and is honestly contrite. Only the wronged can forgive and only then when the guilty party is truly regretful.

        Now on the “karma” comment, which was a response to Shazbot9’s comments: “I am sure that he soon will meet both criteria and then I will feel compassion and no derision, but until then he needs to feel our approbation of his lying and obfuscating, in the form of humor and derision is ideal for a politician.” “He has lied and he has used his office for personal gain.“ He violated his oath of office and in all probability is a crook. Maybe he did all this because he’s an addict. It really doesn’t matter. He’s committed a number of wrong deeds and it’s finally caught up to him. Like I said “karma’s a bitch”. I have sympathy for his wife and family, if he has any. Him none.Report

  5. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    The reason I jumped on your comment was not that I disagree with you politically. It brings me as little pleasure as it probably does you to know that you and I appear to line up on the same side of every issue you’ve dragged into this kerfuffle.

    As I said, my personal experience showed me that the people who walk the walk when it comes to showing compassion for the lowest among them come from all over the socio-political spectrum.

    I agree with Pierre—it’s human nature to feel some satisfaction when our enemies fall. That doesn’t make it a good thing.Report

  6. Avatar Glyph says:

    I was fairly up to date on the Ford scandal (BoingBoing has been all over it for a while).

    Jonathan, no disrespect, but to me this piece reads a little have-cake-and-eat-it.

    On the one hand, we shouldn’t ridicule a human being with substance abuse problems, it’s unseemly.

    On the other hand, we’ll make sure to link to every joke (and I particularly liked the “Schadenford” link, since it let me know that Canadian journalists can in fact call people “hosers” in headlines) and tawdry aspect of the whole affair (we’ll maintain a dry and bemused tone about it, though).

    I don’t believe drugs should be criminalized, but I think a certain level of social mockery directed against excess may still be desirable. I don’t want the law to place too many limits on drug use, but that means individuals need to. Don’t take more than you can handle. Some drugs, like crack, are bad news for nearly everyone; some drugs, like alcohol, are bad news for you in particular: know your limits.

    Ford fails spectacularly at observing these limitations. Therefore, ridicule may be in order. It’s not a political thing, and it’s not a personal thing (or at least, it need not be either). It’s just human nature; a way of collectively saying “get your s**t together, man!”

    Granted that he may be an addict. Maybe I am wrong and prior to the drugs he was an exemplary public servant and human being, but somehow I doubt it. I strongly suspect he was a jerk before he ever took drugs. (And really, “drugs” is a bit of a red herring anyway; a liquor bottle is plenty of drugs to get many people in all kinds of trouble, and it sounds like he is one of those people.)

    Ah, but we say:

    Mr. Ford is still a person – a deeply flawed, obnoxious, aggravating person

    Another way to say it, is that Ford is a criminal person: He has lied and he has used his office for personal gain.

    He has apparently used Lisi, a low-rent thug, as his personal enforcer, to threaten and intimidate his enemies. He appears to be acting every bit the little tinpot dictator of Toronto, and he hopes he’s above the law.

    He’s a gangster – an inept and comical one, maybe, but a gangster nonetheless. “Tragedy”? He’s a wannabe Tony Soprano and smacked-out Christopher rolled up into one. He’s Boss Hogg on crackweedohol. I’ll save my sympathy for other people I think.

    But even if he weren’t a two-bit gangster: like I say above, mocking people who make fools of themselves is not always a bad thing.

    How do you know when you’ve gone off the rails?

    Well, is everyone laughing at you? Might be a sign you need to slow your roll.

    If the mockery is killing him politically, that’s a good thing. We want him, ideally, to gain no more power and influence than he has; he shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a go-kart, let alone a major N’Am city.

    Addiction is not funny.

    But addicts, and the dumb stuff they do, can be. And the more famous/powerful/privileged they are, the funnier it is – because it reminds us that the elite are often no smarter or better than the rest of us goobers.

    It was funny when Robert Downey Jr. fell asleep in some random kid’s bed. Dave Chappelle made great hay of ol’ Rick James. Marion Barry? That s**t was funny. Heard any good Andy Dick jokes recently?

    When there’s a hypocrisy element (fulminating about others’ lives whilst engaging in the same “vices”), it gets even better: in the Doc’s post on outing, I compared Ted Haggard and his Meth Masseuse to Spitzer and Swaggart’s prostitutes. The revelation of Rush “Tough on Drugs” Limbaugh’s Pain Pill Problem was delicious.

    I honestly see no reason we need to be so high-minded when it comes to Rob Ford. He’s a public figure. He sought that fame and power out. He did a bunch of stupid stuff, some of which may be related to his substance abuse issues. The desire not to be the butt of jokes can be a powerful motivator. My inner Nelson Muntz will not be scolded into silence.Report

    • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to Glyph says:

      These are good points, but I think I need to offer clarifications.

      You’re right that I linked to just about everything I could. This wasn’t to be meant (solely) as ridicule, it was also to support everything I wrote. It was to provide context and information to an audience that likely isn’t paying that much attention to the antics of Toronto’s mayor. That’s one of the reasons I wrote this for Ordinary Times rather than a Canadian site.

      As a politician, Ford deserves ridicule. I wrote that he deserved scorn, but ridicule would have been just fitting in that line. I don’t object to using shame, ridicule, humour and whatever else to bring down a thoroughly corrupt politician (and, as you mention, a criminal of whatever degree). That’s also why I that these acts aren’t merely fodder for jokes. Initially, I left out the “merely”, but that didn’t feel quite right. We skewer our politicians, and rightfully so (assuming they deserve it, and most will deserve it at some point, to some degree).

      But, and this is a big “but” [insert obvious joke], there is a ridiculous amount of pleasure being taken from this among certain groups in Canada. It’s moving beyond the deserved skewering of a crooked politician to absolute merriment in a man’s potential self-destruction. The personal and the political are getting so horribly mixed, that it really is unseemly.

      If one is cheering the downfall of the mayor, I have no problem with that. But if one is cheering the downfall of the man, that’s a different story. And I am seeing a lot of the latter up here.

      So, yes, it is a fine line and it’s really close to the having-your-cake problem. It’s difficult to completely separate the man from the mayor, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

      One last thing:

      “Mr. Ford is still a person – a deeply flawed, obnoxious, aggravating person

      Another way to say it, is that Ford is a criminal person: He has lied and he has used his office for personal gain.”

      No, that is not another way to say it. That’s saying something different, though related. Ford clearly has problems. He certainly seems wretchedly unhappy and broken (though, of course, we’re all broken, to an extent). He’s a giant pain in the ass, but that doesn’t make him less of a person.

      And, of course, being a criminal doesn’t make him less of a person, either (though more of a hypocrite since he’s a government official), but that’s not what I was talking about there.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

        Jonathan, thanks for the reply, it was more thoughtful than I perhaps deserved. Re-reading my comment now, I sound like a real jerk. Sorry.

        Basically, I think my knee-jerk reaction was this: If I can’t mock groping, crack-smoking, finger-giving, radio-calling-while-drunk, gangster-employing mayors, well, who CAN I mock?

        I think the idea of being told “that’s not funny”* rubs me the wrong way from both a comedy perspective, and from the perspective that I truly do think mockery may be a weapon against bad governance, and more generally, bad behavior. It’s not too hard to picture RDJ, as he mixes up his morning wheatgrass shake but fleetingly recalls more potent pleasures, catching a glimpse of a Hollywood gossip site on his laptop and thinking “I will NEVER let myself be fodder for jokes like that again.”

        *That said, your point about separating the politician, or “persona” from the person, is a valid one and one I am not sure how to address, as it really boils down to the different “levels” of interaction and relationships we have in an interconnected world. If Mr. Ford came to me personally, asking for help with his substance abuse problems, I would not turn him away, or mock him in any way. But as some random schmoe on the internet, I feel I can, and to some degree should, mock him.Report

  7. Avatar Damon says:

    And it just keeps getting better…

    Headline: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford makes death threat in new video