Toronto: take responsibility and royalties for Rob Ford!

Since we’re all starting to be grownup about our culpability in the election and enablement of this vicious stumblebum, it’s time for everyone to show a little love and understanding to Rob Ford and his hard-core constituency.

This isn’t their fault, after all.  It is the fault of amalgamation.  We can agree on that, can’t we?

The City has been ungovernable since it was reconstituted in 1998.  Don’t blame the current or past Mayors for failing to satisfy the divergent needs of the inner city and the outer burbs.

The whole ugly structure was set up for collapse.  How can we share a mayor when we can’t share a vision for the future?  People with fundamentally different lifestyles and values have committed themselves to their chosen ways of living.  They’re not going to change any time soon.

They’ve already staked out positions on the critical issues of the day, and on most of these issues, the urbanites simply cannot find common ground with suburbanites.  Neither side feels that they can realistically accommodate the other.  Their communities are formed, their streets are laid, the patterns of their lives are set.

No amount of campaigning, planning, and policy making will make them more tractable.  They’ve voted with their ballots, their wallets, their mortgages, and their children’s school enrollments.  There are two kinds of Torontonians.  They will never be one.

No smarty-pants downtown mayor is going to guilt trip suburbanites about their car use when, in the world they occupy, there is no other way to get groceries, deliver kids to school, or arrive on time for work.  Likewise, downtown folk cannot survive in the canyons of condo and office towers without prioritizing public transit over private automobiles.

What I’m saying is that, even if Ford wasn’t Ford, he would have failed, just as the noble efforts of David Miller were deemed deficient, as were Lastman’s before him.  All past and future mayors will go through this meat grinder of conflict.

There.  I’ve said it.  I’m sweating, stuttering, and shaking all over, but I’ve ventured a rationale for the belligerence of Rob Ford and his supporters.

Just in time too!  The media vultures are already circling his carcass.  Recently the Huffington Post put up a Rob Ford biopic trailer ominously starring obese and belligerent Chris Farley who OD’d on his excesses in ’97:

I don’t want Rob Ford exploited that way.  He may be a lying, boozing, whoring, violent, crack smoking incompetent, but he’s OUR lying, boozing, violent, crack smoking incompetent.  Take note Toronto: he’s our (cash) cow!!  We raised him, we penned him in, we pumped him up, now we milk him.

For this reason, I’ve prepared a plan for his post-mayoral career.  It’s a treatment for a Rob Ford reality show called, “A Man of Substance” ©® (working title).  Think of it as my gift to him, his supporters, and audiences everywhere:

The premise

Larger than life City Councillor, Rob Ford wants to find his mojo again.

After one term as a big city mayor, he’s lost his re-election bid and doesn’t know why.  He’s hired coaches to help rediscover the qualities that won the public’s confidence four years earlier.

He meets with the coaches at the start of each week and struggles to understand the insights they offer.  Over the course of the week, in his daily interactions with his suburban constituents, other politicians, business people, media, and his family, he tries to modify his behavior.

Everything he does is on the public record.  This suits him fine because his celebrity allows him to promote the political and personal values that propelled him into public life in the first place.

Will he reform?  Can he reform?  Does he truly want to reform?  And if he does, will he still be the Rob Ford we know?

The people

  • Rob Ford – City Councillor, former Mayor
  • Jim Flaherty – life coach (family friend, mentor, and federal Finance Minister)
  • Alana – life coach (former unknown with undisclosed talents and qualifications)
  • Doug Ford – City Councillor, brother of Rob
  • various allied and opposed city councillors
  • various constituents from Ford’s ward in Etobicoke
  • various journalists and media personalities
  • high school football players from Ford’s team

Tone

This is an authentic record of Councillor Ford’s personal and political life, edited to maintain a balance between simple humour and serious issues.  It echoes his irreverent approach to life.

Much of the humour derives from the contrast between Ford’s common-sense expressions and the erudite language of his coaches.  There is no need for drama in the narration, nor for contrived dialogue because Rob Ford generates quotable statements with regularity.  In his own words:

I admit I’m not a smooth talker, a polished speaker. But a lot of people like that. As soon as you’re a smooth talker, something’s fishy.”  (Maclean’s, October 12, 2010)

Outcomes

Everyone wins when Rob Ford has a platform to speak from.

He and Doug keep getting offered radio and TV spots.  He has a national following among all those people who love to hate Toronto.  He has a higher cross platform media appeal than anyone in Canada with the possible exception of Justin Bieber.  Professional production and a more complex premise will build on the appeal he’s created by accident.

By providing personal and political background to the controversies he generates, both supporters and detractors will have their preconceptions challenged.

A typical episode

Every episode will open with Dr. Drew and Alana counselling Ford in a quiet setting.  They will highlight challenging behaviour patterns and help him set resolutions to change.  Then the camera will follow him, capturing relevant highlights from the week. The episode will end with Ford reflecting on his successes and failures.  The narrator will prompt him with reminders about his objectives for the week.  Ford will be encouraged to express satisfaction or frustration directly to the narrator.

Sample episodes

A kinder, gentler Rob – Ford is counselled to be more conscious of the emotions he conveys with his face and gestures, but he worries that people will be less deferential if he stops trying to intimidate him.  It’s about respect.

Never a routine checkup – Freed from the pressures of his mayoralty, Ford is counselled to pay closer attention to his physical condition, starting with a full physical and a healthier diet.  Ford demands that his tailor constantly alter his suits every time there is a real or imagined weight loss.

Stop the press – Without the communications staff of a Mayor, Ford needs to mend some bridges with the media or he’ll be ineffective on City Council.  So, with advice from his counsellors, he extends the hand of friendship out to former antagonists.  Christopher Hume declines his hospitality, causing a comic escalation of Ford’s overtures.  Ford make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Answering service – Life after high office never returns to the relative simplicity of his former life, and Ford struggles with advice to make better use of the extra time he has on his hands now that he’s not driving around sourcing booze and drugs.  So, he tries to find a hobby to relax himself when he’s not out championing the little guy and saving people tax money.

He ain’t heavy – Rob’s brother Doug intends to run for a seat in the Provincial legislature, raising questions about family dynamics and threatening a vital support relationship for Rob.  They resolve to build a new political party based on Ford Nation, since no existing party wants Doug as a candidate.

Landing the big one – Despite his diminished circumstances, Rob reaches out once more to Stephen Harper but is rebuked.  Doug suggests he sends a gift, which Rob misinterprets.  When the RCMP trace a bloody, severed horse head in a giant Birks box, back to the Ford family’s printing business, hilarity ensues.

Digging deep – All the players change places and partners around the transit planning table after the municipal and provincial elections, and once again, transit to Scarborough is put on hold.  Saner heads counsel a return to the LRT plan.  Feeling obliged to the people of Scarborough, Rob vows to dig the tunnel himself.  After fifteen minutes of strenuous digging in the Don Valley, he treats the film crew to a bucket of KFC and reflects on his lifelong love of subways.

Three’s company –  The romantic side of Rob is revealed when he shares some of what he’s learned about relationships with his troubled sister.  He urges her to move on with her life and begin dating again.  In a moment of whimsy, he arranges a blind date for her with the most eligible bachelor he knows… Sandro Lisi.  Sparks fly.

Scared straight –  Rob wants to perform a voluntary community service, on the advice of his lawyer, so he proposes starting a scared straight program at a correctional facility where he happens to know a number of the inmates.  After strained negotiations, it becomes apparent that he and the warden can’t agree on the program’s objectives.  Instead of trying to persuade youth offenders not to enter the adult prison system, Rob wants to scream through the bars at incarcerated felons, warning them that he is on the outside waiting for them, so they better stay in jail if they’re not fully reformed.  A restraining order and a one-man street protest later, Ford ends the segment in an Arby’s, enjoying a snack and handing out fridge magnets to well-wishers.

 

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