Photo by Chris Young / CP Photo
On Mayor Rob Ford's 44th birthday on Tuesday, May 28, there was cake for the City Hall press corps.
Most passed up the peace offering, but the symbolism, while ambiguous, was too delicious to overlook. The media that Ford disparaged as "maggots" on his radio show Sunday for asking too many questions about that cellphone video allegedly showing him hoovering on a crack pipe were hungry for answers. Was Ford trying to make nice, or telling them to eat cake?
Head-spinning revelations in the ongoing crack saga are coming thick and fast. There were more this week, among them that the mayor's recently hired head of logistics, David Price, may have had an address and apartment number where the incriminating video could be found. Was he directed by the mayor to beat the bushes in Rexdale?
It stands to reason. If a video does exist, then Ford would know who shot it, where it was shot and who was in the room when it was being shot. We have what looks like a cover-up on our hands. Does that sound too crazy? Not for Ford, from where I'm sitting.
His political history suggests standard operating procedure should be not to believe a word that comes out of his mouth unless proof is provided otherwise. The opinion-makers have too often given Ford the benefit of the doubt, viewing his transgressions,through a sympathetic lens. That's part of why we find ourselves in denial about the current crisis.
Now an explosive narrative is revealing some harsh truths about Ford - at last. Still, it's too unbelievable for some, despite the cataclysmic events in his office in recent days.
Exhibit A: the firing last Thursday of former chief of staff Mark Towhey, who, it was reported, was axed for telling the mayor to check himself into rehab. It's more complicated than that. Turns out he's the one who dropped the dime on Ford, telling the cops about Price's video info - or was that a possible search (and destroy) mission?
That episode was described in various media reports as Price putting a "hypothetical" to Towhey: what if we knew where to find the video? Towhey apparently didn't think it was hypothetical if he reacted by calling the cops.
So the mayor's brother, Doug, has been lying all along, or he was seriously misinformed about there being "no police investigation." Ergo his assertion that Rob didn't need to answer to anybody about the crack allegations, least of all the media. Doug has a warped sense of the meaning of public accountability. The more layers are peeled off this onion, the more lies are being exposed.
That Towhey shocker eclipsed, and may have well precipitated, the other bomb that went off in the mayor's office: the exodus Monday of two of the mayor's three remaining senior staffers, press secretary George Christopoulos and assistant director of communications Isaac Ransom.
Holy fuck, folks. This video scandal is beginning to play out like a gangster movie. Does Ford have the (alleged) video?
We may never know. But have you noticed? Rob reacquired his swagger. He practically spat the first complete sentences he'd uttered on the crack allegations at Friday's presser, in which he did not deny outright ever smoking crack. He only stated that if said video does exist, he's never seen it. By Sunday he was declaring unequivocally during his radio show that no video exists.
Nothing can touch him - or so it seems. Another poll says so, declaring his base intact despite the stink of a whitewash hanging over his mayoralty. He's a folk hero. They'll be writing comic books about Ford.
Except now we're at the part where the cops come in. The bad news for Ford is that he may be a material witness in a homicide.
To boil it down, the alleged video may be connected to the homicide of Anthony Smith. For those not keeping score: Smith is the guy "known to police" who was gunned down outside a King West club in March. He appears in that infamous photo with the mayor that may have been taken the night the cellphone video was recorded. Police sources have been quoted saying not to read too much into the fact that homicide cops were sent to take Towhey's statement.
Should Toronto police be investigating this matter at all? Or should an outside force, the OPP perhaps, take over the file? We are, after all, talking about a probe that may involve the most powerful political figure in the city, who just happens to have his fingers in the police budget.
The last time there was a recording of the mayor embarrassing himself, the audio of his 9-1-1 freak-out, Chief Bill Blair saw fit to intervene on his behalf. Questions still linger about whether that was to curry favour with Ford.
The Police Services Board, civilian overseers of the force, have no direct say in police operations. Still, it's easy to imagine members of a more activist board, one not stacked with Ford symps, speaking publicly on a matter of such importance. We all remember what happened last time they stood by and watched, during the G20.
This might be a good time for a few more civic leader to say it's time for Ford to step aside, at least until the cops clear up that cloud of smoke.
But don't expect council's progressives to start clamouring for the mayor's unceremonious ouster. Council's left has been conspicuously silent. It's deliberate. For them, the universe is unfolding as it should, with Rob self-destructing and blowing up the Conservative brand with him right before a stunned city's eyes. They couldn't have dreamed a better gravy-train wreck.
Ford's foes understand better than most that there's no shaming the mayor. They know he's not going anywhere, at least not willingly.
There's no need for them to throw mud, to give Ford an opening to fire back and distract from the gong show. Besides, politically the mayor is done. Radioactive. A bona fide political liability. Even the rats on his executive are jumping ship, although not all signed that open letter last week asking him - no, begging him - to come clean on the troubling allegations. He didn't, of course.
On its own, the alleged video wasn't going to take Ford down. Most defence lawyers agree that even if it surfaces, it'd be almost impossible to make drug charges stick. There's no way of knowing what was in the pipe the mayor was allegedly smoking.
But it does raise other legal issues, like the possibility of extortion and blackmail. For the Fords, there's a lot at stake. Besides Ford's mayoralty and any future political ambitions he may be entertaining, there are those PC leadership hopes of brother Doug.
Now even the Globe is dredging up stories they've been sitting on for months about the Ford family's alleged ties to drug dealing, and, oh yeah, alleged ties to far-right political groups.
The sensible classes seem to be waking up from their comfortable stupor to discover that they don't much like the guy running the show. Of course, they helped create and stoke the Ford myth, encouraging the bad boy's behaviour by ignoring it. Who among them will speak up now?