Toronto

Why the crack video followed a script that mirrored Rob Ford's life

Now that the video showing Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine has finally been released, a reporter who covered the former Toronto mayor's every move for CBC News says it elicits a familiar feeling.

'The timing of the video's release left many in the public conflicted and confused'

A still from a video of former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.

The names affixed to the early morning emails used to cause me great anxiety. They were from colleagues tied to my days following Rob Ford's every move as mayor. And in those days, early morning emails were never a good thing. 

But on Thursday morning, when I opened my inbox to find emails (punctuated by exclamation marks!!) telling me the infamous Ford crack video would soon be released, they caused me no anxiety.

I knew the Rob Ford story was over. It ended when he died five months ago, and to some extent even earlier when cancer knocked him out of public life.

But here we had the video.  At one point, it was a video file that was the most contested and pursued in world.  And here it was finally seeing the light of day, long after the story been written. 

The timing of the video's release left many in the public conflicted and confused. Some questioned the point of it all.

In August of 2016, with Ford dead and the story seemingly concluded, did the video matter?  Should media outlets play it?  Should we watch it?

The video was played widely and judging from the millions of global views, there was an interest in actually seeing Toronto's former mayor smoke crack.

As it turns out, the video and the details that emerged in court documents are the final  sordid puzzle pieces of the story.

 'It is a reminder of how far off the rails he was'

And like other parts of the story, it follows the Ford script that so often played out during his scandal-filled term. Some of the serious allegations about the things he said in the video are blunted due to an absence of clear evidence.

In the end, it doesn't sound like Ford ever made a homophobic slur about Justin Trudeau as it was initially reported by the Toronto Star. Nor is it clear that he referred to members of his football team as "f—king minorities" as initially reported. But that seems beside the point.

The fact is, Ford appears so wasted and incoherent that much of what he says is inaudible or indecipherable.  It is a reminder of how far off the rails he was.

The video is a portrait of a sad addict: Ford, a sitting mayor, filmed by a virtual stranger, smoking crack in the middle of the day, in the basement of a convicted criminal. I'm sure some watching felt another common emotion people felt for Ford - sympathy.

That's another part of the Ford script that helped him weather so much during his political life.

Many also wondered on Thursday, what impact the video's release would have

on the late mayor's  family, his mother, his children.  What would they think?  How would they feel?

No doubt, it was a difficult day for them.  But likely nothing they didn't already know.

We all have for a long time.

About the Author

Jamie Strashin is a native Torontonian whose latest stop is the CBC Sports department. Before, he spent 15 years covering everything from city hall to courts and breaking news as a reporter for CBC News. He has also worked in Brandon, Man., and Calgary. Follow him on Twitter @StrashinCBC