Rob Ford Gravitational Field

Dear Toronto:

It’s time we had a frank talk about that Chief Magistrate of yours.

We are speaking of course about Rob Ford, the big guy who keeps showing up in that lime-green team jacket.

We’re sorry we can’t think of a gentle way to put this, but surely we’re all in agreement that your Mr. Ford is a jackass? First there was that thing with closing public libraries and trying to insult Peggy Atwood. (It must have been embarrassing to a great big man like that to have his butt kicked by a little slip of a thing like Ms. Atwood. Or was that his brother? Well, whatever.)

Then there was that Toronto’s Biggest Loser project, or whatever it was called, with weekly weigh-ins and all that embarrassing stuff. Very unseemly, even before he was caught on phone-cam sneaking out of Col. Sanders’ place with a bucket of eviscerated chicken bits.

Now there’s this business about chasing reporters around and demanding that they hand over up their BlackBerries! BlackBerries, for God’s sake! Why would anybody do that? We mean, other than to check up on who the reporter’s sources are? This was all because Mr. Ford wants to buy some city trees, or out in a fence or something? And why didn’t the reporter just kick his big fat butt? Lord knows, it would have been hard to miss! Well, maybe the Toronto Star has a rule about letting reporters do that sort of thing. Like we said, whatever.

It’s not that we’ve got anything against politicians who aren’t allergic to a little argy-bargy now and then. You know that we loved Jean Chrétien, even after he tried to throttle that protester and especially after he chased that burglar around 24 Sussex with an Eskimo sculpture while his RCMP guards snoozed.

And it’s not that we don’t have any embarrassing politicians out here in the ROC. Or politicians that wear dumb green team jackets, for that matter — just look at Hamilton and Saskatoon, not to mention Edmonton! Just consider Alberta’s recent provincial election and those Wildrose guys, the ones who were all aflutter about the White Man’s Electoral Burden and how gay people are certain to burn in an eternal Lake of Fire if they don’t repent and stop keeping their apartments so tidy. It must have been excruciating to witness that happening if you happened to live in Alberta, but, well, what could we say?

And it’s not as if there haven’t been other embarrassing politicians from Toronto, either, I suppose. Does anybody remember that Mel Lastman fellow? He was officially a Bad Boy too, if we remember correctly. Although, we have to admit, he’s been eclipsed — in every sense of the word — by Mr. Ford.

Nope, it’s none of those things, although we have to admit that from our point of view out here in the ROC, the thing about Toronto is that most of its politicians must have been pretty sensible because you were just so darned successful. Names like Jack Layton spring to mind.

We don’t know if the penny ever dropped for you, but that’s why we always hated you so much, Toronto! You might not have quite been the World Class City you always worried you weren’t, but, by God, you were the closest thing to one north of the 49th. We knew you for your cultural institutions, for your great restaurants, for your efficient public transit system and for your confident multiculturalism — and we deeply resented it.

We resented it — and you — because we knew, in the hearts of our hearts, that we looked like a bunch of chumps by comparison. You know, the sorts of places that if somebody complained out loud that you ought to elect the “Caucasian Candidate” because he’d represent everyone equally badly, lots of our neighbours would say, “What? Whaaaat?!” Well, they’d never get away with that in Toronto, we’d think.

Nowadays, though, thanks to this Ford fellow, we’re starting to feel a little sorry for you. Turns out you’re just another chump like us, only way bigger.

In fact, you may be an even bigger chump! At any rate, some of us out here in the hinterlands have mayors that are pretty reasonable!

And, you know what? From that little seed of sympathy, a great big oak tree of empathy is going to start to grow! Pretty soon we’re all going to love you, Toronto, and that will be just … pathetic!

We’re going to love you because you’re going to be part of the club, just like us, another second-rate Melonville in the frozen north with an embarrassing civic government that’s signed the surrender papers and ended the War on the Car. And this in the place that welcomed Jane Jacobs and stopped the Spadina Expressway!

Where will our bright young people, our authors, our actors, the kids we brutally teased in school when we were growing up, dream of leaving for now? San Francisco? New York? Paris?

I don’t know how this makes you feel, Toronto, but it makes the rest of us feel like we’re missing a limb. Sometimes we can feel our old envy or Toronto twitching, but then we look down and … it’s just gone.

Look, we can’t tell you what to do. But this is starting to have an effect on your Canadian family — all your jealous brothers and sisters spread out across the great land, the part of it within 30 kilometres of the U.S. border anyway. If you can’t bring yourself to skid that guy for your sake, maybe you need to do it for ours! That’s right! Do it for us — your Canadian family! If you don’t get him out of there soon, we’ll never get back to hating Toronto like God and Conservative Party of Canada intended!

We hated you because you grew up to be something better than the rest of us. We hated you because we couldn’t count on you to automatically vote for Stephen Harper and his ilk every time there was a federal election like so many of us did. We hated you because you had better taste than us, because you owned a subway that worked and because you have the only major league baseball team in the country. (And this last point is true even if the only beer you sell at Blue Jays games is Coors and it costs $10 a can!)

Can we make this any clearer? We hated you because you were so big in every way it felt as if you had your own gravitational field. Now the only thing about you with that kind of pull is … your mayor!

If this keeps up, Toronto, we’re all going to have to start hating … Vancouver!

For your sake…. for our sake … for Canada’s sake… do something!

With Heartfelt Sincerity,

The Rest of Canada

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...