Federal Conservatives MIA for the Ford Afterparty: My Insider Scoop


I, DOUG SIMPSON, of the City of Toronto in the Province of Ontario,
1. I was the man. I suffered. I was there, but;
2. No, I did not accept money from Mr. Henderson or HISSS, and;
3. Yes, I do expect this affidavit to protect me from future threats, rewards, or prosecutions
Journalists are suddenly talking about the dilemma Rob Ford’s disgrace has created for the federal Tories and the (neo) conservative movement across Canada. The question they pose is how a merciless, law and order government, founded on bedrock family values, should deal with a Toronto flag-bearer, who has just been exposed as a lying, cursing, crack-smoking, drunk.

I have a secret for you. Conservatives have been worried about Ford since he was elected three years ago. Maybe the lost boys of his inner circle were able to cover their eyes and hold their noses but, all the way from the nation’s capital to the western conservative heartlands, the stench was palpable from the beginning.

Having seen the CBC’s 5th Estate expose of the Rob Ford story last week, I want to get this down before someone offers me a suitcase full of money, threatens my life, or both. Things are getting out of hand.

*     *     *
This is my story:

Early in his mayoral term, a representative from a prominent, right wing think tank (let’s call it the “Heartland Insitute of Self Serving and Specious Studies”, or HISSSS), with strong ties to the Harper government, approached NetGain about conducting some research for them. The research, they hoped, could be used to provide an intellectual framework for Ford’s erratic decision making.

What they wanted was research and recommendations about alternate corporate models for the City of Toronto. They wanted comparisons between Toronto and “a city that works.” Then they wanted to know how to change the City as a corporation to match the performance of what they regarded as better cities.

They would have done the research themselves, but their representative (call him, “Mr. Henderson”) acknowledged skepticism about the extreme bias evident in all their past studies. If NetGain did the research, Henderson went on hopefully, it wouldn’t be tainted by the Institute’s reputation. They assured me that media perceptions are unfair and that all they really wanted an objective analysis. As it turned out, what they really, really wanted was a report that lent vision to Ford’s smeary, short-sighted mantra about the mythical gravy train that chugs through City Hall.

As everyone reels in shock at the Mayor’s daily disclosures (today we learned that he dines on kittens, threatening to eat a staffer’s despite having more than enough at home! #TMI), the national conservative network started thinking about damage control three years ago. Only a few months since his election, they were trying to invent a creditable purpose FOR him, or risk having their cause discredited BY him.

Big picture – if they could drape a veil of rationality over his Trailer Park politics, the public might not discover that there was never any substance to his campaign rhetoric. On a more pragmatic level, the grimly vacuous Henderson worried that Ford would have no chance of election to a second term if the public couldn’t make sense of the man, in word and deed, during his first term.

These concerns seem insignificant in comparison with the events that were to follow these discussions between NetGain and the unmentionable think tank. But context is important. It was the innocent spring of 2011, after all, and Ford was still riding high on his triumphs over the menace of low-flow toilets and the $60 personal vehicle tax. Six months into his term, it was still possible to imagine that his biggest problem was a to-do list that was so short, there would be nothing left to campaign on in 2014.

Ford Harper 2

Conservative team-building? Ditch-digging?

So they were right to worry in 2011 but they had no idea how right. Six months later he was in court facing suspension over conflict of interest charges. A year later he was caught playing grab-ass with Sarah Thompson and was wobbling through the receiving line at the Garrison Ball and was making increasingly regular appearances drunk or stoned in public. Eighteen months later, he was ensnared in a police investigation that connects him to drug dealing felons, extortionists, imprisoned enforcers, escorts, and a murdered gang-member. As they prepared to mitigate the risk of embarrassment, Henderson and HISSSS should have been laying plans to jettison Ford before he turned into a magnet for global media mockery.

Ford Nation, the people who know and love the Mayor best, are still denying the truth about a man they’ve supported since he launched his political career. And some of his Council colleagues, who knew better than to ally themselves with him in 2011, were very slow to acknowledge the immensity of his moral and intellectual deficits. So it would be wrong to fault the unmentionable national conservative think tank for failing to read Ford’s resume before celebrating his victory. At least they recognized the need to buttress his shaky ideas about their neoconservative principles translate into the operating principles of North America’s fourth largest City.

My recruitment happened just as you might imagine. I was called to an exclusive club by a long-time member to meet with Henderson. In a quiet salon, served by hushed staff, I was told what they wanted, asked my opinion about it, and told to go away to prepare a proposal for them. Henderson ventured that it might cost a million dollars for the team of experts I would need to accomplish my mission and the work might take a year. It was a lot to think about.

I was actually quite keen to take this on and believed that we could help. The messy but workable structures and systems of our city prior to amalgamation, became monstrously dysfunctional after the provincial government stitched the mega-city together. Now it thinks and moves like Frankenstein sometimes. There are some wonderful people doing some great work, but the parts don’t work well together. Picture the monster (the Boris Karloff Frankenstein, not Mary Shelley’s) with his tongue out, eyes rolled back, and an ice cream cone mashed against his forehead.

Needless to say, we didn’t get the work and to my knowledge it was never done. There is undoubtedly some specious self-serving study underway that, despite its appeal to the red meat conservatives nipping at Harper’s hindmost parts, will never see the light of day.

However the whole episode made me aware of the hidden currents behind the icebergs of calamity that drift through the sea lanes of our political and professional lives. Hidden operatives work feverishly to set and reset their course, failing time and again, but profiting by each disaster.

Ford Harper 1

Who’s that on your right, PM Harper?

The popularity of Ford created an opportunity for Harper to pick up some much needed support in the City of Toronto, making the Mayor a prominent node in the network of ideas and relationships that HISSSS and Henderson were trying to manage. After lots of backslapping and log rolling, barbecues and fishing trips, Harper needs to decide whether or not he can afford to nip this node off clean, or stay silent while it metastasizes. On one hand, it has drawn attention away from his troubles with the Senate, but public perception might lump the scandals together in a general perception of conservative hypocrisy. It’s a true dilemma.
I submit this account of my nearly dirty dealings with the dark side of Canadian politics to help others avoid the same fate. Despite the inevitable redactions needed to obscure the details of my encounter with the real Henderson and the despicably eminent body behind the fictive HISSSS, I want people to know that Ford was recognized as a peril by his erstwhile federal allies from the moment Toronto voters turned their Mayor’s office into a Peter Principle demonstration project.

I only wish I had come forward sooner. It might have saved innocent people from guilt by association with the disastrous Ford regime. Unlike HISSSS, poor, naïve politicians like Paul Ainslie, Karen Stintz, Michael Del Grande, Doug Holyday, Jaye Robinson, and back room operators like Mark Towhey, were totally blindsided by the revelation that Rob Ford was going to behave like Rob Ford once in office. Even his cheerleading brother, Councillor Doug Ford, seems to have been caught off guard by revelations that his brother is a crack smoker and a liar.

I’m not proud of having kept silent so long. Everyone who jumped into bed with Mayor Ford in 2011 is suffering political hangovers now, but the real consequence is yet to come. They’ll all be itching in unmentionable places before this is done.

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