Libel? Nah. Just Democratic Hijinks.

November 16, 2012

I am a bit flummoxed at Royson James’ notion of democracy. Early on in the 2010 campaign, the Toronto Star columnist spearheaded the derailment of then councillor Adam Giambrone’s mayoral bid, outraged over some unsavoury “personal issues”, let’s call them, that had surfaced. Here’s what Mr. James wrote in February of 2010:

Mayoral candidate Adam Giambrone can be gay if he wants to, or bisexual. This is Toronto.

Giambrone the playboy can have a 19-year-old girlfriend on the side, a common practice among the political elite of the day.

Giambrone the TTC chair can use the couch in his city hall office to bed Kristen Lucas late at night when he should have been using the office to solve customer-relations problems at the TTC.

And when caught with his pants on the ground, the man with the clean-cut, fresh, youthful image can admit only to having an “inappropriate” text message relationship with the girlfriend, as if it amounted to mere digital sex, a peccadillo.

But the 32-year-old city councillor can’t do all that and expect Torontonians to embrace him as their mayor.

Yet 2 ½ years on with the man the city did ultimately embrace as its mayor, Rob Ford, in court on the stand, defending himself against libel charges for things he said during the 2010 campaign and Mr. James simply shrugs. “We value our democracy,” he wrote yesterday. “Elections are the purest expression of our freedoms. When candidates put themselves up for public office we want to give them the greatest latitude possible to debate issues, to raise questions, to rail at the moon, to be as outrageous or as thoughtful as possible.”

Apparently for Royson James, a strong democracy needs to be able to withstand undermining attacks upon it by unsubstantiated innuendo, questionable claims and, quite possibly, libellous slurs but cannot cope with a politician’s personal transgression and the lies and hypocrisy that invariably follow any public outing. Adam Giambrone was unfit to hold the office of mayor. Rob Ford was just expressing his democratic rights and freedom.

No one is arguing that Rob Ford did not have the right to say the things he said during the Toronto Sun editorial board meeting. At issue now is facing the consequences for the words he spoke. You’d think that would have James more up in arms than he seems to be.

The outrageous railing at the moon the Fords engaged in with the Sun about in camera meetings, backroom sole-source deals, corruption and skulduggery was just par for the course of the complete fiction their whole platform thrived on. Unchecked, such invention became fact. The Ford administration rode into power on a huge polluted wave of misinformation and dubious rhetorical slogans.

But at least we don’t have a philanderer sitting in the mayor’s chair. I mean, one who cheats on his partner not the entire city with his little football coaching on the side.

Amazingly, given all that’s happened during Mayor Ford’s tenure, James remains blithely oh-well-what-are-you-gonna-do about politicians who engage in debatable discourse that confounds reality. “The thinking is that our community can withstand the rhetorical excess of misguided or over-exuberant candidates. In the end, a thoughtful and clear-thinking electorate will sift through the noise and mess and find a reasonable representative to lead them.”

Really, Royson?! Really!? To quote Stephen Colbert: How is the weather up your own ass?

Goaded by ‘the rhetorical excess of misguided or over-exuberant candidates’, enough voters were convinced City Hall was rife with corruption and bloated spending (and whatever other uncorroborated crimes against taxpayers Rob Ford tossed in for good measure) that we now are in the grips of a fantasy league mayor and his collection of delusional followers. In the article, James claims then Ford campaign spokes person, Adrienne Batra practically dared George Foulidis to challenge the accusations in court “and watch all the stuff come out in public.” The matter is now in court and, so far, no ‘stuff’ has come out in public.

Bullshit built on bullshit can only result in more bullshit.

Whether or not Mayor Ford is found libel in what he said about the process of awarding a contract in the Tuggs deal is irrelevant at this point. What should be clear, especially to long time municipal watchers like Royson James, is that the mayor’s iffy relationship to the truth, on almost every civic matter he expounds on, serves neither democracy nor the welfare of this city. In fact, it’s been nothing but a detriment. Shame on Royson James’ nonchalance in the face of that.

unimpressedly submitted by Cityslikr


It’s Not Paranoia If Everybody’s Out To Get You

November 14, 2012

There’s a culture of corruption down there and we’re going to put an end to it.

That’s then not councillor Doug Ford popping off during a Toronto Sun editorial board session alongside his councillor brother and then mayoral candidate Rob during the 2010 municipal election campaign.

Some two and a half years later, with now Mayor Rob Ford on trial for allegedly libelling restaurant owner George Foulidis over some comments he made during the above gabfest with the Sun, here’s now Councillor Doug Ford’s opinion of the proceedings.

It’s 100 per cent political. It’s all politics. Every court case Rob’s in is all about politics, you know that…We’re here to represent the people. We’ll take the brunt for the people.

Is there no sense of shame that runs through the Ford family? Is nothing ever their responsibility? Read through the excerpts of the Sun piece, with Doug goading his brother to increasingly higher degrees of outlandish, unsubstantiated claims about the workings of City Hall. “…there’s more corruption and skullduggery going in there than I’ve ever seen in my life.” “And if that Tuggs deal doesn’t stink to high heaven, I, I …” “The system’s broken… they’d be in front of a grand jury, they’d be indicted and they’d be in jail right now. “ “That’s corruption, plain and simple.” “That’s illegal. They (ought to) call the police and investigate that.”

I don’t know if anything that was said will be considered libel by the court. What I do know is that the Brothers Ford threw around a lot of innuendo which they couldn’t back up with actual… what do you call that again?… proof. Now the mayor is on trial and all Councillor Ford can see is an enemy driven conspiracy against them. “It’s all politics.” Nothing whatsoever to do with accepting responsibility for the words you speak or the actions you take.

It would be shockingly depressing if it weren’t routine behaviour from the mayor, his brother and their apologists.

chidingly if tanly submitted by Cityslikr


Rob Ford Worship

September 20, 2010

So the Nanos poll arrived yesterday on the virtual doorstep with a dull, deadening thud of a wet, weekend newspaper on the front porch. Rob Ford now has an eye-popping lead of nearly 25% over his closest opponent. Surprising? Unquestionably. But the source of the surprise goes deeper and wider than just the fact that Ford is even being touted as a viable mayoral candidate.

The poll is startling because I thought in the last couple weeks there’d been a shift in tone to the debate from an avalanche of negativity about the state of the city to one more reasoned and composed. Take, for example, Alan Broadbent’s letter on the Maytree Foundation website. While all we’ve been hearing over the course of the spring and summer from most of the candidates running for mayor how bad a shape the city is in – i.e. rampant fiscal irresponsibility, a non-responsiveness to citizens’ needs, the phantasmagorical “War on Cars” – that characterization may be, well, a little over the top. “Toronto nowadays is a progressive and welcoming city with a thriving economy, flourishing arts scene and renowned cuisine. Its education and healthcare provision are among the best in the world.” So says the The Telegraph U.K. But, they’re probably just a bunch of Chelsea elites.

So, what’s with this disconnect and the Fordian anti-everything appeal?

I lay a large portion of the blame on the campaigns of George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi. Despite the fact that our current mayor stated his intention not to seek another term last September, both men decided to run in opposition to him. Rather than talking about how they’d build on the successes of the Miller administration and fix the things it messed up, they chose to portray Toronto on a steep, Skeleton speed decline toward 3rd world status. They (with mainstream media assistance) created the anti-City Hall environment that is Rob Ford’s milieu and his only strength as a candidate. To use Bill Maher’s reference to the Tea Party’s ascension within the Republican Party, Teams Rossi and Smitherman let the Frankenstein out of the castle and lost any control over it.

Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone should also shoulder some of the blame for not vigorously defending the administration that he was an integral part of. Only belatedly has he embraced the sentiments about Toronto expressed by The Telegraph and tried to force back the apocalyptic visions stirred up by his opponents. Too often he was sheepish in defending the accomplishments achieved at City Hall over the course of the past 7 years. An odd tactic to take since some polls released over the past month or so suggest that David Miller would be the front runner in this race if he was in it. Clearly, a sizeable chunk of people who live here believe that we haven’t been on the wrong track.

People like us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke also need to accept responsibility for the Ford phenomenon. We clearly misunderestimated the man’s appeal and spent much time focusing on his appearance and personal foibles although, in terms of the latter, there is much overlap between the man’s shortcomings and his politics. Clearly, we should’ve concentrated our efforts purely on his ideas, policies and what a Ford mayoralty would look like if he actually won. (Like Eye Weekly’s Edward Keenan did last week.) I guess the idea of Rob Ford actually winning on October 25th seemed so impossible to contemplate that it hardly seemed worth the effort of criticizing him as if such a thing could ever happen.

There’s still five weeks to go until the election. Federal and provincial don’t officially start until around now. With such a commanding lead, the scrutiny on Rob Ford will only increase in its intensity no matter how much his handlers try to keep him in a bubble and not allow him to make any serious blunders. But the Nanos’ numbers do suggest a huge hole that those chasing him have to try and dig themselves out of. As John McGrath pointed out this morning on Twitter, a candidate hoping to overtake Ford not only needs to build their own numbers but they have to cut into Ford’s support.

How they do that, I’m ashamed to admit that I have no idea. The Rob Ford Army is entrenched and their belief in his candidacy as the cure for all that they see ails Toronto is firm and not subject to much dissuasion. Point out that their man’s transit plan is completely impractical, will not alleviate congestion and has almost zero chance of ever, ever being implemented and their response is ‘Stop the War on Cars’! Or that his electoral reform idea of cutting council by half would represent the complete antithesis of increasing accountability and responsiveness, and they’ll demand ‘Respect For the Taxpayer’! All that ‘corruption’ he claims happens behind closed doors at City Hall like the Tuggs deal? Had he been doing his job as a member of the auditing committee, he could’ve sent the deal to be audited by casting the deciding vote but was in absentia at that particular meeting. No matter because when he’s mayor, Rob Ford will ‘Stop the Gravy Train’!

It seems once Rob Ford supporters cross that divide, there’s no getting them back. Failure to do so means he will be Toronto’s next mayor and no one else is to blame except ourselves. Those 54% of us who cannot even begin to fathom the prospect of His Worship Rob Ford.

stumpedly submitted by Cityslikr