The Familiar Return of the Unrebootable Rob Ford

Thank Christ Rob and Doug Ford aren’t as smart as Doug thinks they are.

Doug, brother and campaign manager to Toronto Mayor-for-now Rob, has tried to keep a brave face for the last couple of months as his brother dealt with his minor personal issue of doing illegal drugs frequently enough to be videotaped doing them. Twice. He has even, on his best days, tried to spin his brother’s illness as part of a comeback story, hoping voters are gullible enough to buy a redemption story from two thoroughly irredeemable men.

Given how totally dependent Rob’s political fortunes are on visibly turning over a new leaf, any sane political observer would have predicted that Ford would try to demonstrate something, anything that was within a light-year of changed behaviour.

Instead, on Monday, Toronto was vividly reminded that Rob Ford will never be rebooted or rebranded. I’m old enough to remember ye olden dayes of 2012, when they said all he needed was to lose some weight. No, not that time, the time before that. No, before that. What we saw on Monday was all the evidence we need that, while Ford may be suffering from serious addictions, he would be a terrible mayor even if he were as sober as the judges he’s appeared before repeatedly.

About the best thing that can be said for Ford’s rambling comeback speech is that either he, or more likely the person who wrote the words he read, understood the distinction between offering an apology and asking for forgiveness. Ford, correctly, realized he could do the former without having the gall to dare the latter.

The rest, alas, was a mess—albeit the same mess we’ve come to expect from Ford when he’s caught in these situations. Because we’ve seen this tape before, too. Perhaps the most jaw-dropping part was Ford’s line that, “in my position I am held to a higher standard,” as if the rest of us would have successfully shrugged off his litany of sins—as he tried to, until it became impossible.

All of which is to say that the Rob Ford 2014 campaign has not, to all appearances, made an easy re-entry and landing back on planet Earth. And this would have been true if Ford hadn’t been lustily booed out of a Canada Day party in my end of town yesterday. As it turned out, the booing was the second-worst part of my Mayor’s encounter with East Yorkon Canada Day. (Oh and then he was booed at Mel Lastman Square later that evening. Civic unity!)

I wouldn’t be surprised if Ford’s polls do, in fact, climb slightly now that people are reminded he a) still exists and b) is running for mayor. I will be surprised if his re-elect numbers climb higher than the statistical dead cat bounce. We have plenty of evidence to suggest there is really nobody left whose opinion of Rob Ford isn’t etched in stone.

And why shouldn’t it be? Why should opinions of Rob Ford be any less maddeningly consistent than the man himself? He will, after all, always be that guy who, say, pretends he has other things to do during Pride. And this year, we were the city that was happy to let him pretend: his presence at WorldPride 2014 certainly wasn’t necessary, and could not have possibly improved matters. Ford has his own apologies to make to the LGBT community (left out in his Monday speech, I note with emphasis), and maybe someday he’ll make them. In the meantime, the city enjoyed the jubilation of its own diversity, and the grace of a pitch-perfect day, complete with a stunning Rainbow Finale.

It’s a lean and hungry world if we can’t still find wonder in acts of nature. If the rainbow can be a symbol of celebration for the LGBT community, or a sign of a covenant with God for Christians, maybe that rainbow, Sunday’s rainbow, can be a symbol that Toronto hasn’t let Rob Ford change us that much. That when, instead of returning to office, he pays this city the final duty of simply going away, we can get back to the work of being the city we believe we can be.

The election is three months and 24 days away.

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