Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

TTC bus saga highlights Rob Ford's communication problems

By: Metro Canada Published on Fri Nov 09 2012

In an alternate universe, Mayor Rob Ford simply might have offered an unqualified and emphatic apology last week following the bizarre turn of events that led to his football team riding off the field in style in a private TTC bus.

“I apologize to any commuter who was left on the side of the road in the rain,” the parallel-Earth mayor could have said, maybe also including the word “folks” a bunch of times. “I understand that, in the midst of some chaos on the field, a decision was made to call for a TTC bus to pick up my football team. I had no knowledge that the bus would be removed from service. I don't know exactly why the decision was made, but, rest assured, I'll get to the bottom of this.”

But that's not what happened. Instead, Ford engaged in a game of pass-the-buck, admitting only that he was bothered by reports that TTC riders were kicked off the busy Finch route to divert to the football field. “That drives me nuts,” he said.

Mostly, though, the mayor absolved himself of any responsibility, telling the Globe & Mail, “It's over. It's done. I had nothing to do with it. You are beating a dead horse.”

But here's the thing. Ford can't claim to have had “nothing” to do with this story. No matter how you look at it, he was a big part of things. He was on the field at the time in his position as high school coach. In his other job as mayor, he wields tremendous influence over both agencies at the centre of this story—the police and the TTC. And the fact that he placed two phone calls to TTC CEO Andy Byford, inquiring about the status of the bus, is not in dispute.

From nearly every angle, Ford was involved.

His bizarre denial and confused messaging has given this story legs it doesn't deserve. Metro has published more than 10 stories on the subject over the last week. At the same time, both the TTC and Toronto Police Services have been forced to speak to the media at length on the subject, with the TTC doing a much better job of explaining their part in the saga.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board, home to both schools with teams involved, has reportedly received angry phone calls and may even reimburse the TTC for the costs of the student transportation. Even the kids have gone on record, with players from the opposing team indicating that the supposedly heated post-game situation didn't warrant a private bus for Ford's Don Bosco Eagles.

None of this was necessary. A coherent communications strategy and a heartfelt apology from the mayor could have stopped this story dead. Instead, we've been led through an exhausting web of conflicting accounts. It all adds up to yet another week wherein actual discussion of city policy has been supplanted by a new chapter of a never-ending story that might be titled The Ongoing Misadventures of Mayor Rob Ford.

I don't know about you, but I'm really tired of that story.

This post was originally published at on 2012-11-09T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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