Ford brothers lurch from low to low
By Christie Blatchford – To the old saw about horseshoes and hand grenades, you may now add Meeting 44, the Nov. 18 special meeting of Toronto city council.
If that wasn’t a political castration a filled-to-the-brim council chamber witnessed, it’s close enough to count.
Now anyone who was there will have her favourite moment, by which I mean complete and utter nadir.
For some it will be when the Brothers Ford – Rob, the now-gelded mayor, and Doug, the councillor – turned on Coun. Paul Ainslie, who had invited the attack because he was provocatively, oh, breathing or something at the time.
“Councillor Ainslie,” Doug Ford sneered pointedly. “You got your own issues.”
At this point, the mayor went into a frantic cartoon pantomime of a man at the wheel, driving off the road.
Grinning like a man unhinged, the mayor hooted at Ainslie, “Or was it one wheel?” (Earlier this year, Ainslie received a warning from police after he was pulled over in a RIDE check. He wasn’t charged.)
For some, it may be the two occasions when Mayor Ford, sitting in the speaker’s chair, tried to get Coun. Ford’s attention by saying, “Jones!” and motioning for him to come up to the chair. (The Brothers Ford frequently call one another Jones.) Others may have embedded in their memories Mayor Ford’s closing address, when in his speech against the motion he invoked the memory of his dead father, self-identified with “the poor people (more) than the rich people,” plugged his new show airing that very evening on Sun News (he promised “my side of things, unfiltered,” to which in my head I cried, “But I want you filtered!”) and then compared the meeting to the Saddam Hussein-led invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Imbuing U.S. president George Bush with his own weird tic of repeating that which he means most sincerely, Mayor Ford quoted him telling the Iraqi leader, “I warn you, I warn you, I warn you” and thundered, “You guys have just attacked Kuwait! This is going to be outright war!”
But for me, the lowest point came much earlier, when Mayor Ford finished off his questioning of Coun. John Filion, who proposed the motion to strip the mayor’s office of cash and power, by noting that Filion had wracked up more office expenses for his one ward than the mayor had and saying, and this was meant ironically, “Don’t you think you have a spending problem?”
By this point, many in the packed public gallery were openly chortling derisively or heckling the mayor.
Then, with Doug Ford taking over the questioning, speaker Frances Nunziata trying to direct him and maintain order, Ford demanded that the “special interests and the CUPEs behind me (in the public gallery) … do me a favour” and be quiet.
The mayor from his chair immediately began chanting “NDP! NDP! NDP! NDP! NDP!,” and muttering about “socialism.”
Very red in the face now, the mayor got up and walked away a bit; he was rocking back and forth on his heels, clearly spoiling for a rumble in the jungle.
He approached a strapping fellow who, it was said later, either worked in his office or was a security officer.
“Let’s go out in the crowd and talk to them,” he told the man. Mayor Ford was again grinning, but also unmistakably bellicose.
The staffer obediently lifted the rope which separates the floor of council from the public section, and out came the mayor, glaring, bouncing on his feet, all but kicking up dust in the bull ring.
At the mayor’s explicit instruction, the staffer began filming citizens in the crowd with his cellphone, the mayor occasionally saying, “Did ya get these guys in the back?” and “Get this guy, right here!”
All the while, he was smiling ferociously, but there was a profound air of menace emanating from him.
I was in the second row of the public gallery and he walked inches from me, shaking the occasional hand, including that of the man beside me, who said he was an old friend, and giving the odd thumbs-up.
But mostly, with that big, thin, dangerous smile plastered on his face, he prowled the alley in front of the public gallery, daring the hecklers to heckle him in the face, in person.
Finally, a couple of them did. From the speaker’s chair, Nunziata called a recess, but it was too late to quell either the mayor or the enraged citizens.
From the gallery, the crowd began to chant, “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” – and quite correctly too.
Here was the chief magistrate of the city, prowling up and down the public gallery, trying to intimidate the very people for whom he works and who pay his salary, frightening at least one woman, probably in her 50s, into pulling her blue scarf over her face.
“How do you know Anthony Smith, you lying scumbag?” someone shouted, referring to the young man who is a homicide victim and who is one of the three who posed in that now notorious picture with the mayor, outside an alleged crack house. “How do you know Anthony Smith, you lying scumbag?” the man shouted again.
By this point, Doug Ford had joined his brother in the alley, the two of them, bristling with hostility, shouting up at citizens.
“Special interests!” Doug yelled. “Get the real taxpayers down here!” I think it was the woman with the scarf over her face, who sat as if stunned, but someone murmured wonderingly to someone else, or no one, “But I’m a real taxpayer.”
To my eyes, it was only the intervention of Coun. Mark Grimes, a big (but gentle) man himself who steered Doug Ford back through the velvet rope, that prevented actual fisticuffs.
Minutes later, back in his seat, the mayor apparently perceived that his brother was under attack and sprinted to his aid, running behind the councillors’ row to get there, and in the process, bowling over Coun. Pam McConnell, who went arse over teakettle. It was the mayor and his chief of staff who appear to have caught McConnell just in time, sparing her from cracking her head open.
Afterwards, nursing a swollen cheek and lip, she said with real dignity, “This is the seat of democracy, not a football field.”
(Source: The Vancouver Sun)