Conrad Black’s much-hyped interview with Mayor Rob Ford aired on Monday night. And, as you’d expect, it was a doozy.
Both men said lots of things that weren’t true. I considered doing a full line-by-line fact check, but who has that kind of time? There was way too much in there.
But I can’t just let this go without a little bit of fact-checking. The truth matters. Facts matter. Voters in this city need to understand that Ford’s biggest liability isn’t the drug use or the various police allegations: it’s that he can’t seem to ever just tell the truth. Don’t believe me? Here are just three of the big lies from Ford’s interview with Black.
1. On the 2014 budget: “And now the tax increases since they’ve stripped my powers. We agreed for 11 months that 1.75 per cent — including the half-percent for the subway — now all of the sudden they’ve gone to 2.5 per cent” and “[Council wants to] spend more. To increase the grants. To increase their own office budgets. They want to increase their own office budgets now.”
The suggestion that councillors — who haven’t even voted on or debated the budget yet — somehow rewrote the budget in the days after Ford was stripped of some of his powers is baseless. The city manager has said it isn’t true. It’s simply not plausible for a multi-billion dollar budget that generally takes many months to assemble to be radically changed in just a few days.
Ford wants you to believe that his 1.75 per cent property tax target was agreed to by councillors back in January 2013. It was not. The city’s 2013 budget outlook assumed a two per cent property tax revenue increase for 2014. The subway added 0.5 per cent to that figure.
He also wants you to believe his property tax target included room for subway funding. It did not. Eleven months ago, the city was working under the assumption that the Scarborough LRT project would go ahead. There was no talk of a subway resurrection. Unless Ford has psychic powers, he couldn’t have come up with his target while assuming room for subway funding.
Councillor’s constituency services and office budgets will go up by the rate of inflation in next year’s budget. It’s an automatic increase. Councillors have expressed no desire to add larger increases to their budget as part of the 2014 budget process, and there’s nothing in the budget to that effect.
2. On his 2006 drunken incident at the Air Canada Centre: “It was embarrassing. And it was stupid. They asked me, ‘Was that the Ottawa game?’ I said, ‘No, it wasn’t the Ottawa game. It was the New Jersey game.’ It was like semantics, I know. So I admit I’ve drank too much at times — I’ve had enough of that.”
In 2006, Ford was drunk at a Leafs game and berated some people sitting nearby. This is a fact, one he previously lied about and later copped to, which is why it’s weird to see him backtrack on it.
With his suggestion that there was a semantic issue tied to the incident, he seems to be implying that he initially lied about attending the game only because he wasn’t asked about the right hockey game. It’s a repeat of the lame “You guys didn’t ask me the right question” gambit he tried with the crack cocaine admission.
But his story makes no sense. The drunken incident did take place at a Toronto vs. Ottawa game, not a Toronto vs. New Jersey game, on April 15, 2006. The Leafs didn’t even play New Jersey that month — the last time the Devils came to Toronto that season was months before the incident, in February.
And anyway, it hardly matters. Ford’s initial denial in 2006 never involved such fine-grained semantics. Instead, he told reporters he hadn’t even been to a hockey game since Christmas.
3. On Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale: “I caught a Toronto Star reporter in my backyard over my fence taking pictures and I got up from behind him and I freaked him out a bit” and “I have little kids. When a guy’s taking pictures of little kids — I don’t want to say that word — but you start thinking, you know, what’s this guy all about” and “I don’t know what he was taking pictures of. We never ever saw these pictures, but I have many witnesses.”
This is the probably the most egregious lie Ford has ever told. And it’s made even more absurd because the story was dead and everyone had moved on until the mayor insisted on dragging it back into the spotlight, adding a baseless and disgusting implication.
Ford says he caught Daniel Dale in his backyard. He did not. Daniel Dale was on public land near the mayor’s house, investigating a story about the mayor’s plan to buy the land and add it to his property. This is an entirely reasonable thing for a reporter to do.
Ford seems to suggest that Dale was taking pictures of his kids while they played in the backyard. But Ford has also said that he was helping his kids with their homework when he heard from a neighbour that Dale was near his property. These stories contradict one another.
Besides, we know exactly what Daniel Dale was taking pictures of, because the police looked at the photos on Dale’s phone— Dale was not carrying a standalone camera, though Ford claimed he was — and found nothing. Not a single photo.
Ford says he has witnesses, but none seem to want to go to on the record. It doesn’t matter, though, because the police had access to the most reliable witness of all – footage captured by security cameras in Ford’s backyard. From that, they decided there was no reason to press charges against Dale. Ford, for his part, opted against releasing the footage to the public. See if you can guess why.
Case closed. Or at least it was, until Ford decided to start lying again.