In my way, I confronted Rob Ford. On a mid-March Sunday, my nine year-old son and I were leaving the ROM while the Mayor was grand marshal for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. From the sidewalk I shouted “crook,” “idiot,” and “fat pig.” My son was astounded at his dad’s unruliness. The few other bystanders all laughed.
If I were to accost the mayor today under similar circumstances, I would shout “liar,” “crackhead” and “drunk.” The emerging consensus of public opinion and civil society is that he must resign. The problem is that Ontario municipal politics has no recall mechanism and, without political parties, Toronto council has no procedure for a vote of confidence or leadership review, as would happen within a political party.
The question that arises is whether council can improvise. Councilors could propose, and then debate, a motion of censure. Councilors could also act as if the office of mayor were vacant by refusing to engage with Ford, refusing to communicate with him, or to attend meetings he calls or chairs. Doing either or both would take a measure of political courage. The councilors whose collaboration would be essential for such actions to succeed would be Ford’s traditional allies and supporters. Are they, at last, ready to desert him?
Two analogies come to mind. Oliver Cromwell’s words dismissing the Rump Parliament were used three centuries later with devastating effect in the 1940 confidence vote on Neville Chamberlain’s government: “Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
There is a scene in the movie Twelve Angry Men where the most bigoted juror makes a long speech revealing the extent of his race hatred. The other jurors physically separate themselves from him and one of those who originally stood with him declares “We’ve heard enough. Sit down. And don’t open your mouth again.”
Do Toronto’s civic politicians have the moral courage to confront Rob Ford and, one way or another, force his resignation?