Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Rob Ford scandal: It’s not the crack video, it’s the cover-up

Published on Thu Oct 31 2013

Mayor Rob Ford’s big problem isn’t that there are now public documents detailing extensive police surveillance of a guy — arrested recently for alleged drug crimes — exchanging packages with Ford in innocent-looking locales like dark parking lots and gas stations.

His big problem isn’t that Police Chief Bill Blair appears to have confirmed that the video we’ve been talking about for five months — the one that shows the mayor smoking something that sure looks like a crack pipe — is, in fact, real.

No, Ford’s big problem is that it looks like he willfully and intentionally covered all this up. For more than five months, Ford has been telling his supporters there’s nothing to these stories — that they’re part of a left-wing politically-motivated smear campaign to bring him down. But now that’s fallen apart under the weight of, you know, evidence. That’s a problem.

Is it a career-destroying problem? I’d still lean toward no. We’ve got to remember the cardinal rule of Rob Ford scandals up until now: no matter how big the story, things will somehow blow over.

Still, the questions Ford supporters have to ask themselves today are big ones. Can they really continue to put faith into the idea that this is some sort of broad conspiracy — one that involves the highest levels of the Toronto Police Service? And, if not, can they still trust the guy who, at best, spent months misleading people about the reality of the video, his associations and his activities?

The answers to those questions are important, because the end of this whole ordeal will still likely fall into the hands of the voters. Ford can’t be pushed from office unless he’s arrested, and Bill Blair today made it clear that won’t happen anytime soon. Ford could resign, but has said repeatedly that he won’t. After making it this far, and surviving so much, why quit now?

Which leaves the electorate and a voting day that is still a year away. I’ve argued a lot recently that this election shouldn’t be about Ford’s scandals. It shouldn’t be about whether someone with a hypothetical substance abuse issue is fit to be mayor. It shouldn’t be about whether a mayor should be seen hanging around with people with criminal pasts. It should be about actual city issues, first and foremost.

But it should also be about trust. It has to be. A mayor needs to inspire confidence in people. It’s a critical part of getting people to buy into what you’re saying about the issues that matter. Ford sells himself to voters as a straight-shooter who will do exactly what he says — and a lot of voters believe it.

But now? That might change. Because the guy who built his brand as the only honest politician sure looks a lot like a guy who has been lying.

This post was originally published at on 2013-10-31T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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