Toronto’s biggest problem these days isn’t Mayor Rob Ford. It’s the fractured political climate that created him. It’s the downtown-versus-the-suburbs divisiveness that dominates the conversation.
It’s that we just can’t seem to get along as one city with a shared vision.
Still, it’s worth pointing out (again) that Rob Ford is deeply unqualified for the job he was elected to do. For proof, look no further than his testimony at a University Avenue courthouse last week.
Under cross-examination from lawyer Clayton Ruby over conflict-of-interest charges that could see him thrown out of office, the mayor told the judge that he couldn’t possibly be guilty because he didn’t know what conflict-of-interest laws actually mean.
“What steps, if any, did you take, to find out what the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act required of you?” the lawyer asked. Ford just shrugged. “None,” he said. Instead, he pointed to a bizarre personal belief that a real conflict-of-interest has to involve multiple parties who benefit.
He also expressed stunning ignorance of what the word “lobbyist” actually means, telling the court that he didn’t consider Woodbine Entertainment Group to be a lobbyist. Woodbine is actively lobbying the city over the right to build a casino.
The mayor continuously pointed to his failing memory and repeatedly confessed to having not read documents like the Council Handbook. He skipped the orientation session for councillors, he said, because he felt he learned all he needed about being a politician from his father.
This goes beyond ideology. In any job, expressing this level of ignorance wouldn’t be tolerated. It’s not a stretch to suggest that people in charge of multi-billion dollar budgets should at least have a passing familiarity with the rules and regulations that govern their positions.
In the private sector, Ford would definitely get canned.
But this isn’t the private sector — this is politics. And so it goes that, just a couple of days removed from the mayor’s embarrassing performance in court, I stood in an Etobicoke backyard for Ford Fest and watched as thousands of cheering supporters rallied around the mayor.
On this cul-de-sac with burgers and beer, Rob Ford was a rock star.
The scene only highlighted the divide that still exists in Toronto. Fighting for his job in a downtown courthouse, celebrated in a suburban backyard, Rob Ford is the ultimate result of a fractured city that still hasn’t accepted amalgamation.
Which is why even Ford’s opponents should be hoping that, when the verdict comes down, the judge lets Ford hold his position. Toronto shouldn’t be denied the opportunity it needs to come together and reject Ford’s politics of division where they must be rejected — at the ballot box.