Embattled and alleged crack-smoking Mayor Rob Ford is harming Toronto’s reputation and tarnishing his city’s image, a Hamilton communications expert says.
“He has done a lot of damage to Toronto’s image,” said Alex Sevigny, the director of the Master of Communications Management program at McMaster University.
“Businesses want to invest in a city that projects stability and professionalism. The mayor should never be a source of ridicule or the butt of jokes.”
But ridicule and jokes exploded online almost immediately on Friday after Toronto police Chief Bill Blair revealed police have a video that is “consistent” with widely-publicized reports that Ford can be seen smoking a crack pipe and making racist and homophobic slurs.
Once the news broke, Hamilton had no problem taking shots at Ford (and backhanded shots at its own mayor, Bob Bratina):
@LarryDiIanni True- I actually care more about the racism and homophobia than the crack honestly.— Matt Jelly (@mattjelly) October 31, 2013
“As a whole, it’s very bad for Toronto,” Sevigny said. “It sows the seed of doubt in the international imagination about Canada.”
“Regardless of how effective his administration actually is, the confidence people have in Toronto is definitely diminished.”
Release the video: Ford
The Toronto Star and the U.S. website Gawker had each reported in May that someone had been shopping a video that allegedly showed Ford using crack cocaine. The mayor denied both the video’s existence and using crack cocaine.
On Sunday, Ford once more called upon the police chief to release the video so the public could see "whatever this video shows" and judge its meaning for themselves.
"I am asking you to release this video now," Ford said on his weekly radio show on Newstalk 1010.
But the police have said it is the courts that will decide if the video will be made public, not them.
During Ford’s two-hour Sunday afternoon show, the mayor also made vague apologies for his behaviour on selected occasions, including getting "hammered" at Toronto’s Taste of the Danforth street festival and seeing things get "a little out of control" on St. Patrick’s Day last year.
Ford answered calls on the radio show but ducked a direct question about whether he used drugs, as the reports about the video had previously alleged.
"I can’t comment on a video I have not seen. I have asked Chief Blair to release this video immediately. I want to see it now," Ford said in response to a caller who asked the mayor “what drugs you’ve ingested through a glass pipe."
Going on gut feeling
Sevigny says Ford’s radio show appearance helped the mayor recover a little of the ground he’s lost in the eyes of his constituents – but in reality, people aren’t really looking at the facts in this case when they’re making decisions about sympathy.
“They’re mostly going on gut feeling,” he said, adding that Ford “probably regained some of the sympathy that might have been lost,” by acting “composed and repentant” during his show.
CBC Hamilton asked some residents about the Ford scandal and what it means for his city.
Hamiltonian Shane McCartney told CBC Hamilton that most people think Ford is acting like a “complete buffoon,” but that hasn’t irrevocably harmed Toronto’s reputation.
“I don’t think it has harmed the view of the city other than the way the city is functioning,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s a long lasting thing – if they get rid of him, then that’s it.”
Alexander Kehn shared that sentiment when CBC Hamilton stopped him on the street to ask him what he thought about Toronto's political situation. "He's pretty embarrassing, that's for sure," Kehn said. "But I'm not sure if it really reflects on the people because there is so much other stuff going on there."
"As a mayor, he should be a role model, and he should be somebody to look up to who doesn't do that sort of thing," said Ravyne Levely. She told CBC Hamilton that someone in a position of power like Toronto's mayor has to be held to a higher standard than the average person.
On the weekend, Ford once again said his name will be the first registered name on the ballot for Toronto’s next municipal election. The mayor has said he expects the campaign will be "a bloodbath."
Ford spent years working as a city councillor for a ward in Etobicoke, the Toronto suburb where he lives with his family, before he was elected mayor in 2010.