A dark force unleashed: How Rob Ford has demonized Canadian democracy

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Folks, I'm warning you, there's a new threat looming at City Hall. 

Listen up to all the solemn talk about rehab and Rob dealing with his "problem." Is this scandalous situation really about something as ordinary as addiction and its redemption? No way. That's just another pernicious new storyline that simply doesn't fit the crime. 

I understand why the chorus of experts witnessing the Ford affair latch on to the familiar substance abuse drama. It's so clearly a major player in the cast of insidious characters now on the city stage. Of course Rob Ford is dangerous both to himself and others. But rehab doesn't cut it as an endgame. Even forcing him to step down doesn't do justice to the situation at hand.

So let's just get this straight. The fact that the mayor smokes crack cocaine is bad, but it isn't the reason he's unfit for public office. The fact that he lied about it and trashed and vilified those who did their jobs and reported the facts is far more central to the real issue. Though he masquerades as an Everyman, Ford's sense of personal entitlement is so gigantic that he believes he has the right to bend reality itself to his needs and wishes. There are no rules for Rob. This is the recurring pattern we see looping endlessly around his every twist and turn. 

That is why what we're seeing must be named and remembered: Ford's tenure has been a ruthless and consciously wrought assault on democracy itself. We need to make a teachable moment out of this for our own sake and for those who come after us. 

As mere mortals, we can hardly make sense of the unrelenting weirdness and sorrow that's blowing out our synapses as we try to follow the unfolding Ford crime epic. (Until last week, we naive souls thought the word "bird" -- now known to be a low-status gangsta -- referred to a winged creature of the wild.) 

His time in power has absolutely opened the Hell portal under the city of Toronto.

To do the Devil's work, all he had to do was lie and cheat with authority and consistency. That came naturally. He bought his own personal power by pretending that the collective project of government is a trivial money-waster and the only thing that matters is the money in your own personal pocket. He preached that answers to complex human problems are so very simple. The Devil is in the details.

You know the city's reached a new level of debasement when shots of young kids visiting the mayor's office actually make your skin crawl. Thanks to Ford, every nine-year-old in Toronto is talking about crack cocaine. That's evil and a fitting symbol for how close to impossible it is to measure the times and ways that his behaviour has transgressed the bounds of decency. 

But it all goes much deeper into the way that both Fords have successfully used malicious falsification and threats to undermine the very cosmology of democracy we all take for granted. That is what brought them to political power and has helped keep them there.

Don't get me wrong. I love all the compassion being expressed by good-hearted people from all over the political spectrum and the media who see this addiction demon wreaking havoc on a fellow being and graciously want to save him or, better, see him save himself.

This is the kind of politics that values forgiveness and offers help to those in need, no matter who they are. I cherish that and hope we come out of this nightmare with a new commitment to exactly those principles. 

But we cannot continue to let our kindness be the means through which we are manipulated into co-operating with a new diabolical cover-up plan. Denial is not an option.

Yeah, if Ford had just been exposed as a liar about his crack smoking, it would have been bad. But that's nothing compared to what we're dealing with. 

We're talking about a mayor whose every word has been a lie. His gravy train campaign was a lie. Remember the KPMG report that revealed no widespread extravagance, only possibilities for city-wrecking cuts to services? 

His boast of saving taxpayers money? Another fabrication. The city's "net" budget has actually kept increasing under Ford, from $3.58 billion in 2011 to $3.71 billion in 2013. He just added a useless $85 million to our tab in sunk costs when he ditched the Scarborough LRT plan in favour of a subway. Not to mention the tax increase and unfunded liability that his subway plan is imposing on Torontonians.

His promise to stand up to gangs and guns and keep the city safe on the many tragic occasions when violence has exploded on the streets is beyond painful to recall.

His whole political life is a fib, including whether he even shows up at work or not. But worse, he and his brother have undermined every institution, rule, procedure or individual that has stood in the way of their countless transgressions.

Ford has unleashed bully robocalls to sabotage those who don't do his bidding on council. He was found to have violated election spending laws. He has disparaged the city's integrity commissioner for exposing his use of public office for private fundraising. His brother has demeaned the medical officer of health and undermined the authority of the chief of police. The list is exhausting.

And worst of all, they have both incessantly used their authority to insult the integrity of the news media for doing their job of informing the public and reporting these facts.

The reason Mayor Ford is unfit for office is not just that he has personal problems he must fix up. It's his insatiable hunger for power by any means necessary. In his unbounded feeding of that appetite, he has proven himself a democracy-devouring despot at heart. 

That is the truly dark force he has unleashed on the city and the already fragile political culture of the country.

This article was first published in Now Magazine.

Photo: Andrew Louis/flickr

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