Why I feel sorry for Rob Ford.

I now officially feel sorry for Rob Ford.

Oh, I’m not saying that he should stay on as mayor of Toronto. I am in no way supporting this morbidly obese, alcoholic, drug sampling, gansta-friendly mayor of North America’s fourth largest (and most image obsessed) city. Oh, no, he’s gotta go before his already super strained heart finally goes ka-blooey.

But after the release of the latest Ford shaming video (and by latest, I mean Thursday’s; there could be a new one by the time I finish this sentence), Rob Ford has passed from civic embarrassment to disgrace to figure of pity. If Ford were still a football player, his opponents would have been flagged for piling on.

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the drunken rant video, for which the Toronto Star paid an unnamed source $5,000. Ford, looking like a manatee on a bender, is seen going on a rant worthy of a World Wrestling Entertainment heel, only with a lot more F-bombs. He talks about killing people, and how he’s a badass, etc., all in a very cartoonish way.

So, what does the release of this video add to the ongoing Rob Ford/crack/police investigation file? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

You see, it has no context. Who was he talking about? Where was the video taken? Who took the video? It’s so cartoonish, so over the top, Ford could have said he was riffing on bad guy wrestlers doing promotion, and I would have believed it. Instead, the big dope just said he was “extremely, extremely inebriated”. Just like he was when he tried crack. That seems to be Ford’s excuse for everything — he was drunk out of his head. I’d like to hear a drunk driver use that as an excuse in a trial: “Don’t blame me for running into that busload of nuns, your honor … I was very, very, very drunk.”

This is why I feel a bit sorry for Rob Ford. He’s not the first drunk to get elected to public office. Right here in Alberta, we had a major drunk as premier for many, many years (I will refrain from naming him; I don’t like to speak ill of the dead), who pretty much got away with being publicly drunk because the media liked/were afraid of him. That premier was lucky enough to rule when portable cell phones with cameras were the stuff of Dick Tracy comics, and not reality. Rob Ford, however, lives in an age when every transgression is captured on video. The poor slob.

Vancouver mayor the Anti-Rob Ford, Gregor Robertson.
Vancouver mayor the Anti-Rob Ford, Gregor Robertson.

In an odd way, I can see the release of the new Ford video might actually help him keep his job. I don’t live in Toronto, so my assumptions may be way off base, but I get the impression that the elite of Toronto (and that includes the media) hates Rob Ford. They hate the fact that while Calgary has a cool Muslim mayor, and Edmonton has a mayor who is just 34, and Vancouver has a mayor (right) who looks like he just came from a GQ photo shoot (OK, the Canadian GQ, if there were such a thing), while Toronto — super cool, super hip, super livable, super arrogant and self-conscious at the same time — has a 350 pound drunken vulgarian as mayor. It offends the sensibilities that such a clown would be in charge of such a great city. I mean, both John Stewart AND Stephen Colbert are joking about Toronto. While they secretly love the publicity, the shame is almost too much to bear. So Rob Ford has got to go, and the media will hound him until he goes.

The Star video may be a tipping point of the mayor — in either direction. It may be the one that gets so many people enraged that he has to go, or it could be the one that gets him enough sympathy that he could stay on. The Toronto media is in full attack dog mode right now, and there are certainly going to be a lot of voters who think the media should just lay off the guy and let him do his job.

He should quit, of course, if not for the good of the city’s reputation, then for his own health. I hope he does, because he really looks like a guy about five minutes away from, as Fred Sanford used to say on Sanford and Sons, ‘the big one’.

Edmonton: not world-class and proud of it.

Well, the WC word appeared in the paper again today.

You know what it is. I can barely utter it without snickering.

It’s world-class. And yes, technically, it’s two words. But whether it’s one or two, the one thing I know is that no arena is going to make Edmonton world-class, or “put Edmonton on the map”.

First, Edmonton has been on the map — in fact, all maps — for hundreds of years. See, it’s right there, just north of Red Deer. Always has been on the map, always will be.

But world class? Nope.

We may have a few “world class” buildings around. The Art Gallery of Alberta is kind of a baby world-class building. The Winspear Centre has world-class acoustics and is an outstanding concert hall. West Edmonton Mall is definitely world-class, in that it is the largest mall in North American, and can still make a point of being the largest functioning mall in the world, in that many mega-malls in China are mostly empty. The Fringe Festival is world-class in size if not in quality, and the Folk Fest thinks it’s world-class, but isn’t really.

But after that, the list gets pretty slim. Or ends altogether.

Now that we are about to get our first glimpse at “our” new arena, the “world-class” term has arisen again. John McKinnon in the Edmonton Journal went on today about how the area will move Edmonton to world-class status.

Sorry, Edmonton boosters. It takes more than a flashy new ice palace to make a city world-class.  Edmonton just isn’t a world-class city today, and it won’t be a world-class city tomorrow.

Exactly what “world-class” means is difficult to define. Clearly, there are some cities that are world-class — Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc. After a handful of mega-important cities, the list gets more difficult to define. Is Sydney, Australia a world-class city? Sounds like it. But how about Auckland, New Zealand? Is Vancouver world-class (might be if they didn’t have the Canucks)? Is a teeming place like New Delhi world-class?

To some, Toronto ranks as world-class. But the mayor of Toronto, Rob ‘911’ Ford, is putting the big push on to get an NFL franchise for Toronto to make it … yes, world-class. In Ford’s view, all it takes to be world-class is to have an NFL franchise, so welcome to the world-class club, Cleveland and Baltimore!

Here’s my definition of world-class. If you have to ask if you’re a world-class city, and if you think adding new hockey arenas and art galleries will make you a world-class city — then you’re not a world-class city.

Let’s be honest here, folks. Edmonton is too cold to be world-class, not cultured enough to be world-class, not architecturally interesting enough to be world-class, not touristy enough to be world-class, not rich enough to be world-class. We just aren’t, and we never will be.

And frankly, who cares? The world-class definition is dubious at best. I wish the Edmonton media types and politicians would expunge the term world-class from their vocabulary. We’re not going to be a world-class city, so let’s concentrate on being a livable city, a quality city, and a good place to live and work. Please, folks, let’s not pretend or aspire to be something we are not, nor ever will be. Please, let us have a moratorium on the term ‘world-class’.

Edmonton: not world-class, and proud of it.

Marg Delahunty vs. Rob Ford: Plenty of stupid to go round.

The Centre of the Universe has been convulsed for days now over the great Rob Ford Doesn’t Have 22 Minutes brouhaha. It’s so insipid, with so much egg on so many faces, it deserves comment, even this far from the Centre of the Universe.

First, some background.

Rob Ford is the mayor of Toronto who seems to be beloved by some, despised by others. From what I’ve been able to gather, he is a bit of a right-winger, so much of one that he had Don Cherry speak at his swearing in ceremony. The Toronto elite is quite appalled that a right-wing idiot is in charge of their World Class City. (Toronto is suffering a severe case of Nenshi envy: they can’t believe that Calgary has elected a hip Muslim, while the Centre of the Universe has Rob Ford.)

The other player in this sorry saga is Mary Walsh, a performer on the long running (19 seasons, which, by the standards of some CBC shows, makes it a youngster) CBC news satire program, This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Walsh plays a character named Marg Delahunty, whose specialty is ambushing politicians. This is apparently considered to be quite funny for some, and by “some” I mean the 0.000001 per cent of the population that watches, or has ever watched, 22 Minutes. Here’s a sampling of some of her work.


Anyway, Walsh (in her Delahunty character) thought it would be funny to ambush Ford at his home as he squeezed himself into his car to take his daughter to school. Here’s the bit as seen on 22 Minutes.


Not particularly funny, but then, very little on 22 Minutes is particularly funny. But things get absolutely hilarious off screen. Ford, apparently terrified by a middle-aged woman with a microphone, went into his house and phoned 911 in a profanity-laced, panicky call. He apparently got really angry when the police didn’t respond, and phoned back with one of those “do you know who I am?” calls, only with plenty of F-words.

Things got even more complicated when a CBC report claimed that Ford called the 911 dispatchers “bitches”, which was later refuted by Toronto’s police chief. This, of course, gave CBC haters (that would be anything owned by Quebecor) a chance to turn on the CBC for its inaccurate report.

This bit of silliness has led to lots of chatter amongst the Toronto chattering classes. Some people feel Ford overreacted, and there was no excuse for profanity. Others feel the CBC stepped over the line in invading a politician’s privacy.

Well, guess what? They’re both right.

First, Ford’s reaction was incredible. Was he in actual fear for his life? It’s entirely possible that he had no idea who Mary Walsh is (I would generously say 98% of Canadians couldn’t identify her either), but clearly this was something for TV. A politician with an ounce of common sense would play along, and the whole thing blows over. Calling 911 just solidified the views of many that the man is an idiot.

BUT… 22 Minutes did step over the line. Politicians do have a right to a private life, and accosting a politician outside his home on his way to work is an invasion of his privacy. Politicians, particularly high-profile ones like Ford, live life in a fishbowl. I think most Canadians believe our politicos deserve to be left alone while they’re at home. Politics is a bad enough business without being accosted outside your own home.

So, there’s plenty of egg to go around. Ford panicked and looked stupid, and Walsh overstepped an invisible line. And all this over a lousy 3 minute bit on a show hardly anyone watches.