Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ford can't resign as mayor soon enough

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Mayor Rob Ford keeps insisting it is "business as usual" at Toronto's city hall. But even he can't be so profoundly out of touch as to believe this in light of the crisis engulfing his administration. He convinces no one, yet Ford doggedly sticks to denial instead of being straight with the public.

Reports of a video allegedly showing him smoking crack cocaine led to the departure of three key staffers in less than a week. Homicide detectives are probing the matter, interviewing Ford's staff in connection with an alleged attempt to obtain this video -- the same video Ford described on Sunday as "something that doesn't exist."

The scandal has left Ford, and the city he leads, exposed to a laser beam of negative international coverage. At one point, he was generating more Google searches worldwide than U.S. President Barack Obama and singer Lady Gaga combined -- and for all the wrong reasons. Even Taiwanese animators mocked him with a satirical video.

A high-profile municipal-trade mission to Boston has been postponed as reporters continue to confront the mayor whenever he appears in public, demanding answers to questions he would rather not face. Every other issue is obscured.

Ford is clearly not stating the truth in claiming "everything's fine." And that isn't the only blatant nose-stretcher he has uttered just this week.

After two top aides abruptly quit on Monday, Ford emerged from his besieged office to suggest press secretary George Christopoulos and special assistant for communications Isaac Ransom were leaving because they had both, coincidentally, found better jobs.

"I've always told everybody that's ever worked for me, if an opportunity comes up, go, please, take advantage of it," Ford told reporters. "This is a huge stepping stone. I'm not going to hold anyone back from moving on."

That was just another attempt to mislead. Sources have confirmed the obvious: Both men quit because they couldn't in good conscience continue serving, given Ford's mishandling of this mess.

Perhaps the mayor's most absurd claim came in his Sunday radio show, when he insisted his administration had set a new, high standard for responsible government. "We're bringing accountability to city hall," Ford said. "First time ever."

First time never is more like it. There has been no accountability in Ford's response to allegations of crack use or to earlier evidence of impaired behaviour, notably when he was asked to leave a gala celebrating the military in February. "It's just lies after lies and lies," was Ford's explanation. The same went for when former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson said a dishevelled-looking Ford had grabbed her backside while standing side by side for a photo at a party.

Then there's Ford's well-documented misuse of city staff and resources. He has pressured public employees into doing roadwork benefiting the Ford family business; bullied and abused municipal managers; packed city appointments with his cronies; fallen afoul of conflict-of-interest rules; skipped city business to coach high school football; and put municipal staff and resources at the disposal of his team, the Don Bosco Eagles, before being booted from coaching last week.

It's a sorry record showing chronic abuse of the public's trust. The only standard for accountability set by this administration is a new low. That failure is underscored every time Ford opens his mouth and tries to foist a fresh untruth upon the public. Business will only return to normal at Toronto's city hall when this mayor has left office. And that can't happen soon enough.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 31, 2013 A13

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