There’s never a dull moment in Toronto City Hall. Last Thursday, Mayor Ford made the headlines yet again, this time announcing that he’ll take a leave of absence to seek help for substance abuse in a US rehab centre. His statement followed another video of him surfacing online, smoking what is alleged to be crack cocaine. This time around there was also a damaging audio recording of the mayor making ugly, sexist remarks about electoral opponent Karen Stintz.
As always, Ford’s most recent fall from grace got a mocking mention on the talk-show circuit. He even made it to the White House correspondents’ dinner on Saturday, with actor Joel McHale saying, “People say that Rob Ford is a clumsy mess but he can’t help it – he’s a big guy. He’s like a bull in a crack-pipe shop.”
Ford has put Toronto on front pages and primetime TV all over the world. If a lot of his long-time supporters have stuck by him – and to the saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity – now things are bound to change. It has become clear that Ford’s claim to have saved the city CA$1bn (€660m) over the term – and his tired excuse when caught in the act (that he is “just human”) won’t be enough to protect his position.
With elections just around the corner in October, the mayor’s decision to enter rehab appears to be the last resort – not just to get help for his addictions but also to exonerate himself and try to earn the forgiveness of his electorate.
On Tuesday, however, another story broke: it seems that Ford didn’t actually enter the US last week and his whereabouts are unknown. While his lawyers, and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, maintain that Rob has checked into a treatment facility, they will not say where it is.
Up until last week, it looked as if Ford could remain a major contender despite the scandals engulfing him. In the polls he was lagging only slightly behind Olivia Chow. But the next few weeks and months are likely to show that the latest allegations were the final straw – even for Ford supporters.
Today, everyone is asking where the mayor is. In the meantime his opponents, including the slighted Karen Stintz, keep on advancing with their campaigns. Ford’s leave of absence doesn’t include a return date – and a lot of Torontonians are hoping it’ll stay this way.
Nelly Gocheva is Monocle’s Toronto bureau chief.