Rob Ford's return: 5 key questions

Rob Ford returns to work Monday after seven weeks in rehab. CBC News looks at five key questions as Toronto's embattled mayor attempts a political comeback.

Can Toronto's notorious mayor redeem himself ahead of the Oct. 27 election?

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will return to work on Monday after a seven-week absence to undergo treatment for alcohol abuse. Will he be able to stay on the straight and narrow with the Oct. 27 election looming? (David Donnelly/CBC)

Seven weeks of relative calm at Toronto City Hall will come to an abrupt end Monday as Mayor Rob Ford returns from seven weeks in rehab to revive his re-election campaign.

After a year of scandal that featured Ford admitting to using crack, multiple recordings of embarrassing, inebriated rants, and the removal of most of his mayoral powers by council, Ford will now try to somehow scrub clean his reputation enough to give him a shot at re-election on Oct. 27.

For this football-loving mayor, executing such a comeback would be the political equivalent of a Hail Mary touchdown pass in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter.

But Ford has proven his critics wrong before, so with that in mind, here's a look at five key questions Rob Ford faces as he prepares to make a re-entry into the political fray at Toronto City Hall.

1. Will the rehab work?

Last November, Ford told CBC's Peter Mansbridge he was "finished" with alcohol. We know what happened next. More recordings of drunken rants and other outlandish behaviour that eventually forced Ford to enter rehab in early May.

So does Ford finally have a handle on his addiction or will we see a return to the antics that forced him to step away from the mayor's race? Michael Krausz, a professor in UBC’s department of psychiatry who specializes in addiction treatment, says support after rehab is crucial to a patient's success.

"Addiction is a chronic condition," he said. "If support is provided as early as possible and on an ongoing basis, recovery rates are much higher. Just addressing substance abuse is often not enough." 

Krausz was commenting about addiction generally. He didn't have any specific information about Ford's treatment and recovery (and neither do we). It's clear, though, that it's over-simplistic to say any patient is "cured" after a stint in rehab.

In restarting his election campaign, Ford will need to attend evening campaign events where alcohol will freely flow. He'll have to avoid temptation and the dreaded viral video that will surely emerge if he slips up.  

2. Can his fractured relationship with other politicians be repaired?

With the exception of his brother Coun. Doug Ford, the mayor appears to have few allies left in politics. A near unanimous council vote stripped Ford of many of his powers in November. Earlier this year, the provincial Progressive Conservatives moved to distance their party from the Ford vortex, saying they wouldn't consider Doug Ford  a candidate in the June 12 election.

Premier Kathleen Wynne — who has since secured a majority — gave Ford the cold shoulder during last winter's ice storm. Federally, the Fords lost a key ally when Jim Flaherty died in April.

But it's at the council level where the loss of political allies will hurt Ford the most. Toronto has a weak mayor system, one that forces the city's chief magistrate to build bonds with like-minded councillors who then tend to vote together as a bloc. But many of the right-of-centre councillors who supported Ford after his 2010 election have moved away from him, including Denzil Minnan-Wong. Another, Coun. Karen Stintz, is now running against Ford for mayor.

Many councillors were shocked when Ford made lewd comments about Stintz in one of his recorded rants. Unless Ford can repair at least some of those fractured relationships, it will be difficult for him to register any accomplishments before voters head to the polls.

3. Will Ford return defiant, or humble? 

In the past, Ford has showed little contrition when confronted about his bad behaviour. News reports on Friday suggest Ford will make a public statement on Monday (without taking reporters' questions), then open his door to any councillor keen to discuss city business. Is this a sign we'll see a less combative, more conciliatory Rob Ford? Or will attacks from his opponents (like the one we saw in radio ads from the Chow campaign this week) trigger his fight response?

4. Does the world outside Toronto still care?

Ford's antics made him a worldwide celebrity over the past year, and not in a good way. At the height of the crack scandal he was pilloried nightly by U.S. late-night talk show hosts as the scandal made headlines around the globe. It will be interesting to see if the international media still care enough to give the Ford story more prominent play. Ford's opponents have charged him with dragging Toronto's name through the mud, so if he can't behave, Ford's antics won't only be fodder for Jimmy Kimmel.

5. Can he still win?

It's hard to trust political polls these days, but a Forum Research poll published this week pegged Chow at 34 per cent, Ford with 27 per cent, John Tory with 24 per cent, David Soknacki at six per cent, and Stintz at three per cent. Chow, a former NDP MP, benefits from being the only left-of-centre runner in the race, but it's clear Ford can't be counted out and could be within striking distance of re-election should either Chow or Tory slip up down the stretch.


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