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                      The Rob Ford Crisis: 

       Kathleen Wynne Must Step Up 

   To The Plate If Ford Won't Step Down

   

 


By Susanna Kelley

It's the beginning of another week, and who knows what kind of embarrassments lay in store for both the besieged Rob Ford and Ontario's paralyzed capital city - Toronto.

A video of the mayor smoking crack seen in May by journalists from Gawker and The Toronto Star; another released Friday of him ranting and raving about poking out the eyes and killing an unknown enemy ("just give me ten minutes to make sure he's dead"), and the seriousness of Mayor Ford's substance abuse problems had sunk in to everyone.

It wasn't really very funny anymore.

And, after a telling interview with Mr. Ford's mother Diane and sister Kathy on CP24 last Thursday, a deeper understanding of why Mr. Ford has not gone for treatment emerged: Rob just needed to smarten up a little bit and lose some weight, but "not go away to rehab," said his mother.

No wonder the mayor has refused treatment, if he's hearing that kind of advice from influential family members. One wonders what state he would have to be in before Mrs. Ford believes he warrants rehab.

Much of the mocking of Mr. Ford, on Facebook, Twitter and talk show hosts such as Jon Stewart has turned to concern that his health could give out under the stress, the drugs, the alcohol and his weight.

His crack smoking, his drinking binges and his serial lying were set aside - for now - by many Torontonians and others across the province and country that encouraged the mayor, first and foremost to seek help.

Mr. Ford, as with any substance abuser, elicits many people's sympathy as he must face up to the fact most believe he is not in any condition to be running such a major city.

But time is running short.

While Mr. Ford's substance abuse issues are certainly worthy of our sympathy, the fact is a city that is one of Canada's main economic drivers is stuck in neutral and has been for some time now.

It's time for Ontario's Premier to act. 

It wouldn't be rocket science. Just some legislation that makes it possible to suspend a mayor from office, with pay, if he/she is under investigation by the police

As a reminder to all of us, it was almost seven months ago - May of this year - that Gawker, and immediately following, the Toronto Star, announced their journalists had seen a video of Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.

It's been chaos ever since.

The Board of Trade and all four Toronto papers recognized this when they called on Mr. Ford to step down.

On Wednesday, city council was presented with a motion by Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong that asked him to step down temporarily to receive treatment.

The motion passed 37-5.

If Mr. Ford doesn't agree to a leave of absence, Queen's Park to step in.

The Premier really must take control of the situation.

With the mayor under investigation by the police and been found by them to be hanging out with drug dealers and a murdered man, stepping in at this juncture is easily justified.

The alternative is unacceptable: a continuation of the never-ending chaos that has become our city government's signature existence.

Yes, having the province step in to allow suspension of a democratically elected mayor would be a drastic step and one that would be watched nervously by other municipalities.

But be clear about this: behaviour such as Mr. Ford has exibited wouldn't be tolerated for a second at Queen's Park.

Cabinet ministers have been quick - sometimes too quick - to step down for a misstep.

PC cabinet minister Bob Runciman once insisted he had to step down as Ontario Justice Minister when a young offender was identified in a Throne Speech - not even by a member of his ministry.

Former NDP Premier Bob Rae threw his cabinet ministers overboard for the slightest infraction.

Former Tourism Minister Peter North was made to step down for promising a woman in a bar he'd get her a job at Queen's Park. However, he was later cleared by the OPP.

As the joke went at the time: only in Ontario - a sex scandal with no sex.

And in the McGuinty government, Finance Minister Greg Sorbara stepped out of cabinet while the RCMP was investigating him as part of a bigger case.

It does seem somewhat ironic that councilors would ask the province to step in.

In times past, there have been suggestions that Toronto should become a sort of city-state, because of its enormous two and a half million population. It's been thought that it should not be a "creature of the province" as other municipalities are.

You don't have to think Toronto is the centre of the universe to realize that Canada's largest city, with a population (2.5 million) that is 17 times larger than Prince Edward Island (145, 273) as well as being the financial hub of the country, is enormously important to all of us.

It is also true that cities are meant to be mostly autonomous, despite that provincial umbilical cord.

And so the Premier's reported reluctance to interfere is understandable.

But what is unacceptable is the idea that the Liberals would watch Toronto descend even further into chaos because they don't want to upset Ford Nation - Ford's political base in the suburbs - in case of an election.

The Liberals must do the right thing, simply because it is the right thing to do.

(As an aside, do you think Ford Nation is really going to vote Liberal next time around, anyway?)

These are extraordinary times, as Mr. Minnan-Wong says.

Canada's biggest city is in extraordinary chaos, run by an extraordinary, substance-abusing mayor who hangs out with criminals and who refuses so far to step down.

If he persists, the Liberals must quickly pass legislation allowing them to suspend the mayor, with pay, until a police investigation is complete.

Waiting until after the next election puts Toronto, and thus Ontario, at great risk.

Kathleen Wynne must step up to the plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : November 11, 2013

View all of Susanna Kelley's columns
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