Rob Ford: Is the criticism justified?

Art by Rebecca Duce.
Art by Rebecca Duce.

It seems like any day of the week you can open the paper and find something negative being written about Rob Ford. If all the reports are true, he must be the worst mayor of all time, or at the very least just a really terrible person. But is there another side to the story? Could he be a good mayor who is victimized by attacks from opposition bent on kicking him out of office?

Starting with last fall, Ford was under constant scrutiny for his role as football coach at Don Bosco High School. He was criticized for spending too much time with the football program, and that it was taking away from his mayoral duties and causing him to be late for meetings. He once used a city bus to transport his players home, and was criticized for this act for using city services for personal means, and this is a fair criticism. However, it could also be seen as a mayor helping out troubled youth in his city, and doing what he could to ensure the safety of those entrusted to him. By using his own money to start the school’s football program back in 2002, it could be said that he was giving back to the community. Perhaps it could be looked at as a guy that is not letting his job as mayor overwork him or distance him from the people. After all, isn’t a common criticism of politicians that they do not actually look after our interests and are just in it for themselves? It is just as easy to write about this issue in a positive light, yet that is rarely the case.

Recently, the Don Bosco school board have decided that Ford is no longer allowed to coach the team. Judy Collins, treasurer of the schools parent council, said that while he was a great coach and the students loved him, “he should focus on city business.” In a television interview in March, Ford described the kids as coming from rough neighborhoods and broken homes. “He said if it weren’t for him his players would be dead or on drugs and we thought that was over the top,” Collins said. While these are fair concerns, a school could do worse than having a top public figure donating his time and money to coach football and spend time with its students.

Following football season, a court ruling ordered Ford out of office. The court found him in violation of the Municipal Conflict-Of-Interest Act, since he voted for a ruling that would result in him not having to pay back donations made to his football charity. “The left wing wants me out of here and they’ll do anything in their power,” Ford said in response to this decision. Ford vowed to fight for his job and appealed the decision. He was reinstated, with the appeal judges ruling that he should not have had to repay the donations in the first place. In the end, it amounted to nothing but an effort to get Ford kicked out of office. The case they had against him had nothing to do with his policies, and certainly did not show that he was doing a bad job as mayor. This set the stage for the biggest scandal Ford has faced yet.

Recently, reports surfaced that a video existed that showed, among other things, Ford smoking crack cocaine. Ford quickly faced accusations by two reporters from the Toronto Star, among others, that said they had seen the video. The Toronto Police said that they knew about the video before news about it broke, and conducted an investigation that was said to have placed the video in the police department’s hands. But as of yet, there is still no proof that the video exists, and the police chief has not commented on whether he found a video or not. While this still does not have anything to do with his actual decisions as mayor, illegal activity is worthy of criticism and being removed from office, but only if it is proven to be true.

The last two Montreal mayors were both proven in court to be corrupt, and so their removal from office is justified, but there is no evidence against Ford. The video would almost certainly be evidence enough, but if the video really exists, it would have surfaced by now. In the recent presidential election in the states, a video surfaced of some questionable comments that Mitt Romney made, and then he was forced to address those comments. In this case, unlike Ford’s, there was no doubt that the video existed, and was able to be seen by both Romney’s opposition and the voters. These allegations against Ford may yet be proven to be true, but nevertheless it is strange that scandals and accusations continue to pile up against the mayor.

These examples are just a sample of the criticism that Ford has faced this last year. Actual policies and decisions he has made as mayor, such as his refusal to increase income tax or put the city into debt, have not been the focal point of such criticism. In fact, they could be seen as the actions of a mayor who is looking after the interests and well-being of his constituents. Ford’s stance against a recent provincial proposal to cut $50 million in housing funding certainly does not scream that he is doing a lousy job and is a horrible mayor. In fact, a recent survey from Forum Research conducted at the beginning of June show that Ford’s approval rating has not changed as a result of the drug allegations.

Only time will tell how Rob Ford’s term as mayor will unfold. Maybe he will be re-elected, maybe the personal attacks will stop, or perhaps he will be found guilty of drug use or other illegal activities. But until then, it would sure be refreshing if the media and those against Ford focused more on what he is actually doing as mayor of Toronto.

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