Month: November 2013

Rob Ford Scandal: City Hall and the Circus

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By: James Di Fiore

 

It was like stepping into a dream.

 
That’s precisely how I felt when I arrived at Toronto City Hall, after taking a slight detour on my way to pick up my niece from daycare. I had 90 minutes or so to spare, and as a Torontonian who had already been veraciously following all the sordid details about Mayor Rob Ford’s slide into oblivion, I just wanted to get a close up look at the spectacle.
And to me, Rob Ford was only half the spectacle. Of course he was the shameless half, the half too preoccupied with his own survival to really mean those dozen apologies he has delivered. The other half is comprised of Ford Nation, the media and a select few who have allowed their hatred for Ford affect their own behaviour. A couple of the people who make up the latter group are city councillors who are the loudest critics against the mayor.

 

 

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a probable mayoral candidate, has been in front of as many cameras as possible, including the one in council chamber where he feigned victim status by accusing Ford of standing too close to him. Minnan-Wong, by placing himself inside the crux of this fiasco, the crux being Ford’s bad behaviour, blatantly attempted to find opportunity inside a crisis, perverting the old Japanese proverb by harvesting that opportunity instead of remaining focused on the job at hand; removing a man from the helm of a city who clearly doesn’t deserve the responsibility.

 
So when I entered City Hall and made my way up to the mayor’s office, I immediately began to witness the sideshow, this time from certain members of the public and the media itself. In short, Toronto is witnessing the Americanization of the local and national media through relentless badgering and a rugby-like environment outside the office doors of Mayor Ford. 20 or so journalists and camera operators are on constant guard here, their ‘questions’ laced with giddy frustration and pointless volume as the mayor waddles from his office to the elevator. Immediately I am befuddled as to why there is no roped off areas for the press, the feeding frenzy a direct result of the free-for-all environment most people would consider counter-productive. In short, it’s chaos.

 
So, without media accreditation or any real reason for being there other than morbid curiosity, I stood with the media, a couple of Ford supporters and a few exceptionally angry Ford detractors and waited for the mayor to emerge.
One man shouted the phrase ‘Crack Nation’ over and over again. I tried telling him to be quiet but there was no stopping him. Another woman was shouting her support for Ford, a strange thing to witness given the sheer volume of shady information we now know about him. Then, when he finally did walk the carpeted plank between his office and the elevator doors, the media swarmed. On-air hosts battled for good positions, walking backwards and yelling out random and often cynical questions about crack, his wife and alcohol. Amazingly, even some members of the media began to heckle the mayor, a caveat not lost on sensible folks or slimy pundits like Ezra Levant.

 

 

Two velvet ropes. That’s what is missing from this embarrassing spectacle. With them, the frenzy could at least resemble something productive. Without them, the spectacle marches forth and offers no compliments for any of the participants. I’m not familiar with municipal guidelines regarding public access to City Hall corridors or the mayor’s office itself, but when a scandal like this happens, it seems logical to organize the media and place them within arms reach of the mayor but far enough away so he can walk to an elevator. Crazy idea, I know, but the alternative is proving to be the gasoline needed to keep the fire stoked.

 

 

And while it may be tempting to extract sympathy for Ford due to this new tabloid-like frontier, the more logical position is to recognize how his stubborn disposition has played dominos with the ethics and behaviour of everyone inside the bubble. Good luck, and go find some velvet rope already.

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Schadenford: The Giddy Piling-On of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

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I’m as guilty as anyone.

Over the past year the material Rob Ford has given the world is vast, and more often than not myself and others have seized the opportunity to take another shot at the planet’s most cartoon-like mayor.

So when the revelations materialized spotlighting Ford’s substance intake, in video form no less, the reaction was both predictable and universal. It’s difficult to imagine what it is like to sit and listen to the world stop for a moment with the sole purpose of relentlessly ridiculing you, especially if you still aren’t sure anything is your fault. That’s the crux of this sordid municipal clusterfuck; Ford is a man in denial. As such, he feels if he takes a leave or resigns he will therefore be admitting he has a serious problem. He will be saying to his detractors and critics they were right about him since day one.

But from a civilian’s perspective, a demographic not inclined to humanize politicians, the punchline of each Rob Ford joke serve as validation for their long held beliefs he mayor was a train wreck waiting to happen. Well, the train wreck happened. Big time. And while wanting Ford to resign is a perfectly legit if not absolutely correct opinion, chanting those unlettered, god-awful slogans and exhibiting the worst of Schadenfreude is not a good look for anyone. Critics should feel vindicated and hopeful our next mayor is competent, but instead we’re all looking for knee-slappy Internet memes and hoping a sex tape emerges.

You heard that right. Despite the assumed consensus that, if given the choice, we would probably not want to watch a Rob Ford sex tape, the underbelly of taking glee in Ford’s misfortunes means we quietly-yet-really-excitedly hope we all do one day. It’s this phase of the scandal – when morbid curiosity turns into blatant rubber-necking – that full fledged Schadenford takes hold. But if his most fierce critics – and I certainly am one of them – takes a step back and reexamines their original motivation: to remove an incompetent politician from power, then the 24/7 joke cycle needs to die, even when more fodder becomes public…and it almost certainly will.

So every day outside City Hall, those lefty ideologues gather and chant slogans about Rob Ford. Now they need to go home. Their presence and their motivations are no longer succinct, and it’s starting to feel very, very wrong.

It’s The Thomas Mulcair Show

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By: James Di Fiore

Before 2013, Question Period was considered the ultimate in Ottawa grandstanding. The opposition would stand up, bellow out a cynical commentary followed by a question laced with bias and contempt for the government. Then, the government representative stood up, deflected the crux of the question with a transitional phrase, pivot towards an evasive response and end with an old man zinger against the opposition. And on and on it went.

So yes, the House of Commons is and always has been considered political theatre. It isn’t Stratford, however. Hell, it isn’t even a grade school play. It’s an exhausting display of political cynicism conducted by our beloved elected leaders who used to seek comfort in the fact that hardly anyone ever tuned in.

Thanks to Thomas Mulcair, Canadians are now tuning in. And they like about half of what they see.

Mulcair has decided to do away with the traditional redundant theatre and has opted for a more prosecutorial style of quizzing the prime minister. Gone are the self serving digs and slanted PR questions, replaced with pointed, deliberate inquisitions meant to make Harper look unclothed when he answers as if the old game was still being played. That’s the rub. He’s the only one trying to cling to how Question Period was conducted before Mulcair changed the game.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau hasn’t followed suit, perhaps because he does not want to appear like a rookie clinging to the coattails of his rival. But Trudeau’s lack of QP gusto only makes Mulcair’s tactics look even more impressive. Trudeau would be better served coming up with his own standout strategy while in the House, even if it does elevate Mulcair’s influence. Hell, if Trudeau really is a new kind of politician, one who is not afraid to be polite and cordial to the competition, then he would gladly join Mulcair in his quest to make Harper look like an evasive thief rather than a statesman. In fact, Trudeau should publicly tell Canadians he supports the new style of interrogation as it would reinforce his apparent puppies and rainbows strategy.

Then he should promptly drop the puppies and rainbows strategy.

Trudeau might be pleased with the polls, but Mulcair is no lightweight. He knows Canadians are watching the House closer than ever before, and he knows the reason is him. Therefore, every day that goes by where Trudeau looks like it’s his first Christmas sitting at the adult table is a day where his Liberals remain stagnant in the polls, as they have been for a month already.

If you can’t beat them, copy them…then give credit where it’s due.

Jon Stewart Accidentally Calls Dead Canadian a Crackhead

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Dear Producers/Writers of the Daily Show,

In last night’s episode (Nov. 4th, 2013), during your Rob Ford segment, you showed a fairly famous photo of Ford with three Toronto men. One of them was Anthony Smith. Smith was a 21 year old who was recently shot and killed outside a nightclub. This is a news clip regarding that young man.

I love the show, and this letter is a courtesy because I love what Jon Stewart does, but last night he referred to Anthony Smith as a “crack-stituent”, adding “The racist thing seems to be he’s (Ford) very accepting of anybody who smokes crack with him.”

I feel that while Mr. Stewart absolutely did not do this maliciously, he still slandered a dead 21 year old unintentionally, and I know the family would have been horrified if they saw the show.

I saw the show. I immediately felt for his family, and for the producers of the show who had no idea they were disparaging a dead young man.

I think it would show a lot of class if you apologized on tonight’s show, or at least now that you know what happened to Anthony Smith, maybe acknowledging the unfortunate circumstances that make the joke unfunny to those who know him.

Kind Regards,

James Di Fiore