Last updated on April 9, 2014
“We thought we were getting a responsible leader.”
That’s what newly-registered Mayoral candidate Karen Stintz had to say about electing Rob Ford at the Toronto Board of Trade.
It’s safe to say that Rob Ford has surprised a lot of people during his time as mayor. No one expected him to be videotaped smoking crack, hanging out with convicted criminals in parking lots late at night, or waging a public relations war with the chief of police.
But let’s not pretend there weren’t any signs pointing to the possibility Ford might not be entirely mayoral.
A few highlights from Rob Ford’s time as a city councillor:
- At a council meeting on March 5, 2008, Ford said, “Those Oriental people work like dogs. … I’m telling you, the Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over.”
- On March 7, 2007, Ford made controversial comments about cyclists’ use of the roads, saying, “What I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks. Sooner or later you’re going to get bitten… My heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.”
- In June 2006 Ford spoke out against the city donating $1.5 million to help prevent AIDS. Ford argued that most tax payers should not be concerned with AIDS because “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line…those are the facts.”
- During the debates around the 2002 municipal budget, Ford and councillor Giorgio Mammoliti got in several heated exchanges, where Mammolitti called Ford a “goon” and Ford called Mammolitti a “scammer”. The argument got heated to the point where Ford called Mammolitti a “Gino-boy”. Mammolitti called the insult a “racist remark” and filed a complaint with the city’s human-rights office.
- On April 15, 2006, Ford attended a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game at the Air Canada Centre. Visibly intoxicated and belligerent, he began to insult a couple seated behind him, who were visiting from out of town. Two security guards escorted Ford out of the building. He later told the Toronto Star: “This is unbelievable, I wasn’t even at the game, so someone’s trying to do a real hatchet job on me, let me tell you”, but later on said: “I reflected on it last night, and talked to my family. I came forward and admitted it. That’s all I can do. I mean, I’m not perfect.”
Rob Ford spent most of his time on council doing two things: Ranting about the City of Toronto spending money on anything, and going door-to-door to help people with their potholes and fences. The latter is admirable, and you could even admire the former if you happen to be a far-right libertarian. (Though even fellow hard-line fiscal conservatives like Doug Holyday and Mike Del Grande didn’t vote with Ford on many of his anti-spending crusades.)
Perhaps Karen Stintz agrees on general principle with Rob Ford’s position that governments should spend less money. Maybe she admired his willingness to speak up for his principles against an administration that was careless with tax dollars.
But Rob Ford did absolutely nothing at city council that suggested he would be a “responsible leader”, and many of his political failings – demonstrating a lack of understanding of how Toronto government works, alienating all but a handful of councillors, and losing votes on huge margins – are easily traced back to his time as a councillor. The bar for Rob Ford was always set at “let’s hope he’s competent and doesn’t do anything too embarrassing,” and he failed to meet even that dismal standard.
If Karen Stintz believed that Rob Ford could ever be a responsible leader, either she wasn’t paying attention during the 10 years Ford was on council, or she simply has no idea what the words responsible or leader mean. Someone who wants to be mayor shouldn’t be bragging about that.