Tag Archives: Rob Ford


A snapshot of the police beat this week in Toronto, Canada’s biggest city and its national centre of commerce:

The Day the Rob Ford Story Stopped Being Funny

 “If this guy isn’t in jail, why bother having police at all? Why not just round up poor people whenever powerful people get the urge? The least we can do, it seem to me, is let everyone currently serving a sentence for drug use out of prison. Otherwise, the whole system is pure hypocrisy. Rob Ford is a threat to the still scared idea of equality under the law.”

 – Esquire, popular American magazine aimed at men (We suspect the author means “sacred.” But “scared” works.)
Dancing crosswalk guard sidelined by police

“A Toronto crossing guard has been told to stop dancing while on the job out of concern that she could be distracting drivers. Kathleen Byers is known for dancing back and forth across Dufferin Street, south of Dundas Street West, to music from a boombox, which she wears slung over her shoulder.”

– Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, local station report.

Further reading:
Free Range: A Rob Ford Nation. My small comments about the larger political picture; what the choice of mayor by Toronto’s citizenry says about Canada.
Andrew Coyne column in The National Post: Rob Ford mess a monster born of divisive and condescending populism

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Jones: a Ford nation

Canada, once phlegmatic, is no longer a serious country.

The national and global obsession with Toronto mayor Rob Ford confirms something Free Range columnist Deborah Jones increasingly suspected about Canada’s national character.

The question is, how to respond. To laugh, or cry?



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A Rob Ford nation

Published November 13, 2013

Canada is consumed with the antics of Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

OK, the fact Ford remains in office in the country’s biggest city is grave. He earlier admitted to smoking crack, and today publicly said in city council that he purchased illegal drugs (while still claiming “zero tolerance for guns, drugs and gangs.”) These are the latest chapters of a long sordid saga, and yet for months nothing has ousted this man from the mayor’s office.

Even the spectre of a murder had no apparent effect on his popularity: a man named Anthony Smith was shot and killed some time after Ford was reportedly photographed with him earlier this year. A poll last week suggested that the mayor’s approval rating sat at about 44 per cent, while another poll released today reported that one in four city residents continue to believe he’s fit for office. (Though Ford was — very politely, in true Canadian fashion — asked not to lead the city’s Santa Claus parade.)

Rob Ford has provided terrific fodder for American comedians Jon Stewart and Jimmy Kimmel, and readers from Ireland to Asia are getting blow-by-blow details. Today’s headline in the Los Angeles Times was choice: “Crack-smoking Toronto mayor makes U.S. pols look good.” From coast to coast in Canada’s media, coffee shops, and even at my own table, it’s become impossible to avoid news reports or talk  about Toronto’s mayor.

Perhaps Ford’s case is merely another example of Canada’s famous tolerance – in this case for politicians behaving badly. Canadians, for example, gave the federal Conservative party a strong majority in 2011 even after its minority government was defeated over contempt of Parliament. We reacted with a collective shrug to this spring’s Federal Court finding of widespread fraud in that federal election. The province of Quebec is currently being roiled by revelations from a commission into corruption. Even without its recent suspensions of three senators, Canada’s Senate is … uh, well, I won’t even get into that can of worms.
Or maybe Ford’s case is just another blemish on a continuum of politics, lately slithering toward an extreme.

Either way, Canadians have proved ourselves too tolerant (or apathetic) to face down a miscreant mayor, and clearly not up to the task of improving a flawed political system. Neither excuse explains our obsession with the man. However, and especially in the context of truly important things happening domestically and globally, the obsession with Ford confirms something I’ve come to suspect about Canada’s character: Canada is no longer a serious country.

And I don’t quite know how to respond to that realization. To cry in shame, for what is lost? To laugh in relief that, while other places suffer worse economic hardship, wage real wars, or battle nature’s caprice, Canada’s problems are still so mild that we have the luxury of being absurd?

Copyright © 2013 Deborah Jones

 Contact: djones AT factsandopinions.com

Update March 22: Rob Ford was diagnosed with cancer in Sept., 2014, and died on March 22, 2016. Read the Canadian Press obituary here.


DebJones in Spain

Deborah Jones is a founder and the managing partner, editorial, of Facts and Opinions. She  reported for more than 30 years on breaking news, social and economic policy, science, and whimsey, mostly for Agence France-Presse, Canada’s Globe and Mail, and Time Magazine. She freelanced for a range of publications from the New York Times to medical journals, and held staff positions as a Canadian Press desker and on the Vancouver Sun editorial board. Her education includes an early focus on biology, economics, and political science, with a mid-career Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Simon Fraser University and post-graduate Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. Interests include civility, freedom of thought and expression, and ecology.

Jones’s family was displaced from Europe by World War II and relocated in Alberta and the Northwest Territories, where Jones grew up skiing, horseback riding, canoeing, and reading books. Prior to journalism she worked as a first aid attendant on bush planes, assistant museum curator, slinging beer in pubs, and as a junior park naturalist. When not traveling Jones is based in Vancouver, Canada.


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What Might Have Been

By Brian Brennan

The recent headlines in Canadian newspapers have been all about things that didn’t happen. In Toronto, the headlines have been about a mayor who didn’t step aside or undertake to seek help after admitting he’d smoked crack cocaine while “in a drunken stupor.” In Ottawa, they’ve been about three government appointees to the Canadian Senate who didn’t do the honourable thing and resign after auditors found they had fiddled their expenses. (The miscreants have since been expelled.) In Calgary, they’ve been about an Olympic-ranked Canadian speed skater who failed to win a medal in a routine World Cup race.

What these headline writers need to do is take a leaf out of the book of Ken McGoogan, a Toronto author who – far from focussing on things that haven’t happened – delights in celebrating the achievements of Canadians who have actually made things happen.

His book is called 50 Canadians Who Changed the World. He groups his subjects under such headings as activists, visionaries, humanitarians, artists, performers, athletes and scientists. The featured activists include:

F&O McGoodan book

  • Tommy Douglas – A socialist politician who proved that universal medicare could work in Canada and serve as a model for national health systems in other parts of the world.
  • John Kenneth Galbraith – A liberal economist who wrote books about market deregulation and corporate greed, and served as economic adviser to three American presidents.
  • Louise Arbour – A lawyer and judge who served as chief prosecutor of the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, responsible for bringing the likes of Jean Kambanda and Slobodan Milošević to justice.
  • Maude Barlow – An environmentalist who has written books warning of a global water crisis, and served as water adviser to the president of the United Nations General Assembly.

Other well-known individuals in the book include Alice Munro, Frank Gehry, Glenn Gould, James Cameron, Joni Mitchell, Oscar Peterson, Wayne Gretzky, Michael J. Fox, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Céline Dion, Margaret Atwood and Jane Jacobs. While I think it’s stretching things a bit to say that some of these people (e.g. Peterson, Dion and Gretzky) “changed” the world, as the book title says, it’s also fair to say that all have done Canada proud as performers on the world stage. Our best and brightest have been making their mark internationally for many years, and McGoogan’s book shows there’s plenty more (Naomi Klein, Irshad Manji, Craig Kielburger, Samantha Nutt) where the originals came from.

That’s why I sometimes tire of these current headlines accentuating the negative. Granted, there’s not much positive you can say about a mayor, Rob Ford, who refuses to acknowledge he has a substance abuse problem, or about a trio of senators, Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, who think they’re still entitled to their entitlements. But a speed skater who’s had a bad day? This merits front-page treatment? I’d prefer to read about Guy Laliberté, a former street musician who reinvented the circus and called it Cirque du Soleil.

Copyright © 2013 Brian Brennan

Further reading:
50 Canadians Who Changed the World, by Ken McGoogan (HarperCollins 2013)

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