An immigrant’s take on the Rob Ford saga

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The writing is on the wall: Torontonians vent their frustration against Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford on concrete walls near City Hall.
Photo: ©MARITES SISON

By MARITES N. SISON

The offensive Rob Ford reality show must end. And only he can pull the plug by doing the honorable thing: resign, now.

He needs to stop making a public spectacle of himself for his own sake and for his family. He needs to stop disrespecting the office of the mayor, the city of Toronto and us. A vacation and “time away from City Hall” just won’t cut it.

Having lived in the Philippines for more than half my life, I thought I had seen it all when it came to politics. I certainly didn’t expect a crack-cocaine smoking, arrogant pathological liar of a mayor. Not in Toronto, the good. Not in Canada.

resign.photo
Photo: ©Marites N. Sison

And perhaps that’s part of the problem. Like most immigrants, I moved here thinking – rather naively – that the politics would be different. I thought I had left all these behind: the naked abuse of power, the revolting culture of entitlement and get-out-of-jail free cards, the scandals and boondoggles.

Canada may not have the “three Gs” – guns, goons and gold – that are a sad, familiar feature of Philippine elections and politics. However, the Ford saga and the scandal in the Senate have been a sobering reminder of how citizens everywhere need to constantly hold their public officials’ feet to the fire. We need to hold them accountable for their actions in office and expose them when they betray public trust. Media need to be supported, not vilified when they initiate these on our behalf. And when a politician’s personal life impacts on the public good, it behooves the media and us to raise the red flag.

Like many who live in Western democracies, there are Canadians who have become complacent about who they put into office – if at all they vote. We all like to think that ours is a neat and tidy affair compared to the mess that “Third World” democracies often find themselves in.

And yet, to some extent, we are no different. We fall for empty promises and rhetoric. We like politicians simply because we think they act or look “like us.”

Rob Ford ran on a campaign to “end the gravy train,” a promise that media investigation now shows hasn’t exactly happened. But he was the train wreck waiting to happen.

For a promise to end the $60 vehicle registration fee, many voters sold their souls and willfully ignored troubling reports that had already surfaced before about Ford’s behaviour even when he wasn’t yet a mayor, including his public drunkenness, DUI and possession of marijuana charge, lackluster performance as a councillor, among others.  (For the record, the $60 you saved was passed on the majority like me who take public transport, to parents who take their kids to the Toronto Zoo or enroll them in class at the community centre, among others).

It is rather surprising that people were shocked when none other than Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said yes, the Rob Ford crack video exists.

I also find it surprising (and disconcerting) that people think that whatever Rob Ford does in the privacy of a crack house — where he was seen inhaling a white substance from what appeared to be a crack pipe and expressing his disdain for immigrants and “fags” — or in the “privacy” of City Hall  — where he was swearing and running around with a half-empty bottle of brandy –is none of our business.  I can’t imagine how even ordinary citizens like myself can get away with this in my own workplace.

Yes, we are all entitled to privacy. But people who run for public office know that what they do in private can become matters of public interest if they affect the performance of their duties and if they violate the law, among others.

Consorting with criminal elements when police die in the line of duty and ordinary citizens get caught in the crossfire of drug turf wars in the heart of Toronto is not a private matter. It is a matter of public interest.

 

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