Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Mayor Rob Ford's apology comes far too late

By: Metro Canada Published on Wed Nov 28 2012

Well, he tried.

After initially brushing off the verdict that would remove him from office, a more contrite-sounding Mayor Rob Ford stepped before the assembled media throng yesterday. “Looking back, maybe I could have expressed myself in a different way,” he said. “To everyone who believes I should have done this differently, I sincerely apologize.”

That kind of statement — guarded, yes, but delivered in a sombre tone I found convincing — would have meant a lot more had it come a day earlier. Instead, Ford's first reaction, following the release of the judge's decision in his conflict of interest case, was to claim that his whole legal matter “comes down to left-wing politics.” He also claimed that he had “skin like an alligator” and would fight the judgement “tooth and nail.”

On Twitter, some observers jumped to point out the contrast between the two statements, delivered only 24 hours apart. They suggested that Ford's change in attitude might be slightly disingenuous, tailor-made to give the television cameras a sympathetic clip of the mayor to run with the six o'clock news. I don't quite buy that argument — Ford has never been much of an actor, and his communications strategy has rarely been that proactive.

Instead, I'd suggest that Ford's change in attitude has more to do with the mounting realization that he's in serious trouble following this ruling. After a political career marked with foibles and scandals that ultimately carried few consequences, reality has finally caught up to the guy who's been called the “Teflon mayor.” He's not going to slip away from this one.

This really could be the end of Rob Ford. And I think he knows it.

The news has only gotten worse since the judge's verdict was announced. The administration that swept into office pledging to fight the “gravy train” is now derailing. After hardcore supporter Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti jumped off the Ford bandwagon, yesterday saw more allies start to edge away from the vicinity of this mayor. Coun. Josh Colle, who was supposed to serve on Ford's Executive Committee in the second half of this term, mysteriously dropped off that roster without much comment. Even Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday has been curiously guarded in his support of the mayor's decision to appeal.

Meanwhile, left-leaning councillors are stopping just short of calling for Ford's immediate resignation. Not because they're particularly threatened by Ford's ideology or policy goals — there are other ways to fight those — but because they're frustrated by the outsized spotlight on Rob Ford and just want to get back to the more important mundanities of running a city.

Expect to see a lot more of this in the weeks to come.

The news is little better on the legal front. While Ford's lawyer did manage to get a hearing in Divisional Court next week — where I expect he'll be granted a further stay that'll keep him in office through the new year — it was also confirmed that Ford likely wouldn't be eligible to run in a special by-election, should council opt to go that way. Fighting and winning another immediate municipal campaign would have been an appealing path to redemption. But now Ford's shut out of that, too.

His only hope lies in a successful appeal with the higher court. And those odds aren't great. Things have gotten so dicey that the Ford team is apparently plotting a “Plan C” in which the mayor's outspoken brother, Coun. Doug Ford, takes up the mantle and runs for his sibling's office.

Backed into a corner, it's appropriate to see some level of contrition from this mayor. But, whatever sparked it, there's no denying that his apology is untimely. Had he taken a more conciliatory attitude in the first place, Ford never would have let a minor spat with the integrity commissioner snowball into a legal challenge that threatens to kill his mayoralty. He never would have let things progress to the point where a judge was forced to call out his stubbornness and “willful blindness.”

It's good that Ford might be learning his actions can have consequences. It's just too bad it took so long.

This post was originally published at on 2012-11-28T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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