Four uncomfortable truths about the Ford crack scandal

The Ford crack scandal should be more horrifying than amusing (ARTTHREAT.NET).

by Hassan Reyes

With the confirmation from Toronto’s Chief of Police, Bill Blair that the infamous video of Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine and blurting homophobic and racist slurs with several gang-involved youth has been seized, Rob Ford’s political career may be over.

With even the Toronto Sun and the National Post calling for his resignation, both staunchly right-wing papers that endorsed Ford for Mayor and have supported him throughout, he has few allies left.  Whether he resigns or not remains to be seen, but there are a few important if uncomfortable issues that have been underemphasized if not ignored throughout this saga.

1. The violence against racialized people has been overlooked

The outrage directed at Ford centers around the moral questions regarding his drug use and his inability to own-up to it publicly.  Certainly, these are important issues.  This is especially true considering that Ford has been very public in attacking poor people and programs directed at people who are or may become involved in drugs or petty crimes.

What has been completely underemphasized however is the fact that one young man, Anthony Smith, is dead, one other shot and another thrown from a sixth-story balcony in another part of the country.  All three of these youth were directly associated with the video.

Anthony Smith (GAWKER)

Anthony Smith (GAWKER)

All of these dots connect to suggest that the association of these youth to the video resulted in violence against them.  What connections does the Mayor have to people able to carry out such violence?

Moreover from these youth, there is the issue of Project Traveller, which involved 42 tactical teams from 17 police agencies.  The methods and sheer number of police used in the raid, have really never been called into question, even by loud Ford opponents in the media and political circles.  Do the ends (bringing Ford down) justify the means of sending in a small, head-cracking army to raid poor neighbourhoods?  Is the property and lives of the innocent people in the raids just collateral damage?

One of the 42 tactical Police units involved in the Project Traveller raids standing in front of 320, 330 and 340 Dixon Road.   (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

One of the 42 tactical Police units involved in the Project Traveller raids standing in front of 320, 330 and 340 Dixon Road. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

The violence connected with the Ford crack saga and those victimized by it should be primary concerns for people.  This entire ordeal shows that beyond Ford, there are connections between those with political power and those who perpetrate social violence.  Unfortunately, this appears as a footnote within the main narratives around Ford.

2. Ford compromised the interests of a section of the rich to get richer

Toronto is the centre of finance capital in Canada, and also continues to be one of the centres for infrastructure and condo development in North America.

These interest groups represent billions of dollars and as such want politicians who will lower their costs, but more importantly who will also be effective in managing public affairs so as to ensure their accumulation goes unimpeded.  These interests stand to make far more money from their developments and contracts than they do from reduced fees and taxes.

As much as many Ford opponents portrayed Ford as a servant of the rich and developers, this is only partially true.

Take for example the waterfront.  Ford and his brother Doug challenged the proposal to create a tourist attraction in the Port Lands that included a Ferris Wheel, football stadium and mono-rail.  This went against the plan being developed by the government agency to create housing, park and employment uses on this land, including a potential $6.8-billion in sales from 12,000 new residential units.  While the Ford’s plan may have made one group of capitalists happy, it certainly went against the interests of the housing developers who stand to make billions from those sales.

Housing developments on the Waterfront mean big money, but Ford and his brother had other plans (BLOGTO).

Housing developments on the Waterfront mean big money, but Ford and his brother had other plans (BLOGTO).

The same goes for other lucrative events and projects that Ford has been opposed to for some reason or another including other waterfront developments, the annual Pride events (which brings in millions of dollars), the Pan American games etc.

Put plainly, Ford has been a liability to many moneyed interests in this City.  This is obviously made worse by the scandal and the instability that it presents for those who just want the City to function so that they can continue to profit.  This is the real power behind government in this City, and perhaps they had enough of Ford’s antics.  If Ford had been more prudent, more careful, maybe he wouldn’t be where he is right now – with all the corporate media and the police head lined up against him.

3. Ford numerous scandals reveal a huge double standard and more importantly, that the people are not in control of government

Ford literally got away with any and everything, even when he was caught and even when it was illegal.

In the first year of the cell phone driving law being passed, 46 000 tickets where given out with fines ranging from $150-500.  This law is supposed to protect people from distracted drivers. Ford was caught on his phone and in one instance, reading a report, while driving.  Unlike those thousands of people, Ford was not given a ticket.  This was one of many clear examples of the double standards that exists between how law is applied to the powerful and how it is applied to us regular folk.

One of Ford's earliest transgressions.

One of Ford’s earliest transgressions.

What this has also revealed, is that when it comes down to it, the people are not in control of government and have few means to hold politicians to account.

Even now that there is irrefutable evidence about his shady if not criminal connections and behaviour Ford maintains, there is little that people can do.  Unlike many other places in the world where people can initiate a referendum to recall the mandate of an elected official, there is no way (other than an insurrection) for people to have Ford removed.  Even if the majority of his colleagues wanted him out, City Council does not even have the ability to have him removed.  So unless he decides to resign or is convicted of a criminal offense, there is no way that the people could have him swept from office until the next election.

4. Cuts didn’t start with Ford, and they won’t end him

Again, only time will tell if Ford is on his way out, but some of the basics of his political message and approach will remain.

Importantly, it has to be acknowledged that aspects of Ford’s agenda began with previous administrations, including that of David Miller.  After all, it was Miller’s administration that increased the number of Police, proposed community recreation fee hikes, raised TTC fares among other things.  Austerity and neoliberalism in Toronto didn’t start with Ford.

Ford carried these policies to their next logical step, combining user-fee increases with service cuts (which have included cuts to programs for youth and seniors, to TTC and much more proposed).  Ford justified these by the rallying call around keeping taxes low, a call which resonated among a large number of people who are beginning to feel the crunch of the global economic recession while also seeing corruption, dysfunction and entitlement among all levels of government.

Ford’s message resonated because it tapped into a growing disenchantment among the people that politicians are not trustworthy and disconnected, that the political structure is broken and that things are getting worse and something needs to be done.  His friendly, personal approach reinforced his image as the anti-politician, who didn’t want to work in the same way as the other politicians.  This allowed Ford to channel the general frustration and resentment of the public, instead of trying to tell people that everything is fine.  Oddly enough, many didn’t notice that he, as a rich, dishonest politician himself, was channeling that frustration against the people themselves, especially the most vulnerable.

Ford’s opponents, including NDP- and Liberal- affiliated councillors and unions, have not been able to challenge Ford’s message as of yet, partially because they do not acknowledge that people’s growing frustrations are justified.  Moreover, many of them do not want to rock the boat, and would rather paint the solution as simply one of changing the person in charge.

The Toronto Sun editors, in their column calling for Ford to resign stated: “that agenda (of cutting programs and attacking workers) is exactly what Toronto needs and that we will continue to fight for at the Sun”.

Ford was not part of the working class, nor was he a friend of ours.  His successor along with counterparts in other levels of government will continue to try and pass the burden of the economic crisis onto workers and our communities.  They may look and sound different, but their message and plan will be the same.

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17 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Rob Ford Crack Video | BASICS Community News Service

  2. A. E.. Brittain said:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2011/08/30/doug_fords_dream_waterfront_ferris_wheel_monorail_and_a_boatin_hotel.html

    According to the Tor. Star in this article, Doug Ford, Rob Ford’s mouthpiece spoke about a huge Ferris Wheel as a positive thing. I reread your article, to ensure you said Ford did not want the Ferris Wheel and fancy water front development. As I live near the downtown core, I remembered how we all got upset about that. Which reminds me, with all this nonsense about Ford’s behaviour, what is the latest on the airport runways?

  3. Pingback: Coming to wrong conclusions about Ford and his crack use

  4. Dave said:

    Yes, the grammar is awful and words are missing from sentences, but what really pisses me off about this article is the implication here and in other articles on this site that these raids were there to get ford at the expense of the poor folk of the neighborhood. Get over yourself. These raids took in 43 arrests of gang members, and millions in guns drugs and cash. These raids were for the purpose of arresting criminals and the traveller project was started before rob ford was even filmed smoking crack. Hassan, journalism is supposed to be even handed. You are writing propaganda. Poorly.

    • Hassan said:

      Hi Dave, thanks for the post. We apologize for any typos or lack of copy editing. As we are volunteer run media, often people are writing and doing this work in between other things. Not meant as an excuse (not even that we were in drunken stupor while editing). We take it as constructive criticism that we need to improve on.

      Regarding your other points, we will have to agree to disagree. The link between Ford and the places raided in Project Traveller (including Guelph, Edmonton and Windsor) are widely documented. Nevertheless the point of raising this is not to sympathize with those who are making those neighbourhoods dangerous and inhospitable for the people who live there, but rather to bring up that many people in the area were treated and targeted unfairly by Toronto Police. Moreover, like many other massive raids over the last 10 years in Toronto, the focus has been on the street level pushers but hardly ever the larger suppliers of guns and drugs. There are more dangerous players involved in this ordeal than those arrested in Dixon, and neither the Police nor the media seem to be interested in this.

      Thanks for reading.

  5. Ann said:

    Could someone proofread this and re-post? It’s full of typos, some of which make parts confusing.

  6. Ben Andrews said:

    Am I wrong if saving taxpayers’ money by outsourcing as Ford has done, workers loose reasonable paying jobs to be replaced by minimum wage workers? If so, I cannot see that Ford should take credit for these “savings”

  7. Ellen said:

    While I am wholly opposed to the nonsense that has been our Mayor, Rob Ford, this is simply bad journalism.

    Firstly – the entire first paragraph is incorrect. Chief Blair said nothing like this.
    He said the video was “consistent with what the journalists having viewed the video reported” … No homophobic jargon etc was ever confirmed (hey – it may be true – but this IS bad journalism)..

    This is only the beginning of the incorrectness of this story.
    I wish your site well. Accuracy HAS TO COUNT- even on the Internet.
    !!!
    And this is not a good example.

    Rethink your approach.

    • Hassan said:

      Thanks for your reply. As the media has reported that Ford uses homophobic and racist language in the video, and Blair said that the video is consistent with what was reported in the media, we take this to mean that he did in fact say what the Star and Gawker said he stated. However, our article tries to focus on other aspects beyond the video itself and his substance abuse issues, to other issues which we believe are as if not more important but have not received as much consideration.

      Thanks again for your feedback, and if there are other issues you wish to contend, please let us know as we strive to create dialogue through our articles.

  8. Alexandra said:

    Actually he cannot be made to leave office even if he is charged only if convicted, check London’s mayor Joe Fontana to see

  9. Alexandra said:

    One mistake in the article even if Ford is charged he can’t be removed from office. Only if he is convicted. Look up London’s mayor Joe Fontana for reference He likely knows it too :(

  10. Lee Zaslofsky said:

    Excellent article. I agree with just about every point you make. I think, though, that the problem of household debt, which is the form much of the economic takes for most people, is important enough to be mentioned and thought about. Yes, the recession squeezed working people mercilessly. And that squeeze takes the form of crushing burdens of debt, taken on as a desperate means of keeping living standards up in a time of falling wage

    People need debt relief. One way to get a bit of that is to cut taxes, so people have a bit more money to pay their credit card balances and mortgages. \That, I think, explains why so many working people demand tax cuts, and spending cuts to make them possible. That’s why they want to cut the wages of public employees — to stop paying money they can’t afford to give other people like them the security they have lost.

    The Left opposes tax cuts, pointing to useful things taxes make possible. They are right. But for many working class people, those benefits are not relevant; or even if they were, they just can’t afford to pay for them. And they often don’t much like the people who do benefit by that spending. They especially don’t like being lectured by well to do people who feel good about helping the poor, but find the “selfishness” of working people abhorrent.

    Withoput a Left program or movement that confronts the problem of debt, presents a clear analysis of its real causes, and offers some solutions — if necessary radical solutions — then the way is left open for the Right agenda of tax cuts and “small”, i.e. inexpensive government.

    Apart from Ford’s personal problems — which are a kind of assurance that he will never “sell out|”, because he can’t — Ford’s appeal is that he will really implement a tax cut agenda, in order to make things easier for working people. When interviewed, they constantly return to this theme, even when pressed to show moral outrage about his buffoonery.

    So in many ways it’s Ford’s supporters who are focused on the big picture — how to make the lives of working people easier — and his opponents who are focused on the petty issues surrounding his lifestyle. It’s time for the Left to put forward an agenda that offers real solutions to the problems of working people, not just a valiant effort to hold on to past gains, but a way of understanding the situation, and solutions based on that understanding, that offer some hope to what should be a radically progressive constituency, but is now Ford Nation.

    • Tonyfromteeoh said:

      The programs for the poor that exist, run by Parks and Recs directly impact the poor. When these are cut most often only the rich and well off can afford the user fees imposed. I know because my children attended summer camps, played baseball, ice skated, art and ceramic classes etc. If you think that poor people don’t benefit then you need to go around and find out where these taxes really go! When user fees where brought in average parents and the sports leagues had a difficult time. Many groups stopped using school gyms and fields and the children were left to play in their apartment complexes and in roads in front of their homes weather permitting. Many in the U.S.A. espouse the notion that the government should be run like a business. That may sound reasonable to some but to me government serves a different purpose. Most of what a government produces cannot be counted or regarded as a commodity. Elections can interfere with ways and means of governing based on the differing political philosophies of victorious parties. If Ford himself were black would the police have just taken photographs. I’d bet he’d have been incarcerated a long time ago. The article makes this point in a roundabout manner. Ford’s appeal is that he fooled the people into thinking they had a champion when all they had was somebody who is a pathological liar, well to do and doesn’t give two craps about the suffering of little people. Hence he is willing to cut programs that affect the poor while charging them user fees they can’t afford, leaving them more out of the “prosperity loop” than ever before.

  11. Shaya said:

    Hi Hassan,

    I just read your piece now, I am not sure at what time it was published today. I’m a video news producer for The Real News (http://therealnews.com) and I’m working on Ford piece which will be published for tomorrow.

    Would you be up for making some of points in your article on camera? I could film via Skype.
    I appreciate if you could get back to me asap.

    Thanks,

    Shaya

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