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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

LORINC: A drinking and driving mayor — the last call for Ford?

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While the most discussed and potentially salacious details in the court documents released last week focus on alleged drug transactions and that intriguing spike in calls between Mayor Rob Ford and Alexander Lisi on the day of Anthony Smith’s death last spring, I found myself dwelling on the episodes of drinking observed by police during the surveillance.

On two occasions, the police recovered discarded vodka bottles – Iceberg and Russian Prince – after Ford and Lisi met surreptitiously in an Etobicoke parking lot and later in a wooded area in a park named after Doug Ford Sr. Based on the retrieved garbage, Lisi appeared to have consumed a Subway sandwich. Ford’s meal: something from McDonald’s, perhaps washed down with vodka and O-J.

Afterwards, the documents say, they drove off in their respective vehicles.

The mayor and his enabling brother Doug Ford have long claimed that Rob doesn’t drink and drive. The surveillance released Thursday suggests otherwise, although none of this has yet been proven in a court and may never be, considering that Ford has not been charged with anything.

Did he apologize yesterday to Torontonians for possibly getting behind the wheel of a massive SUV while under the influence? Don’t think so. Not even close.

Rather, we were told that the brothers are “working” on getting a driver or, ahem, a customer service person, as Doug took pains to note. (“Help wanted: self-starter with a Class G license and the discretion of a Secret Service agent.”) But needless to say, this gesture — like the non-apology apology — is meaningless unless Ford confronts his apparent addiction, which, as those who’ve dealt with addicts well know, can only begin once the denials end. And the denials haven’t ended.

Many councillors, publicly and privately, have urged Ford to take a leave of absence to deal with his suspected substance abuse, and the chorus continued loudly following his radio show. Others have taken issue with his dishonesty.

But I am perplexed why critics haven’t focused more intensively on the outrageous public safety risk posed by Ford’s alleged behaviour. After all, this is the same guy who pled no contest on his 1999 DWI arrest in Miami.

It seems to me that we should carefully parse the impact of Ford’s conduct as this bizarre case continues to unfold.

If he’s smoking a lot of dope, Ford is breaking possession laws that are observed, in this day and age, mainly in the breach.

If his drinking or alleged drug use has caused him to behave in public in ways that run counter to the decorum we expect from elected officials, Ford is abusing the institutions of the office of the mayor and city council, and disgracing himself.

But from where I sit, the real crimes occur when his behaviour has the potential to physically or psychologically harm others — i.e., the general public and his family — in ways that aren’t merely political.

We don’t yet know whether the mayor’s involvement with Lisi or the other thugs who parade through the court documents will add up to something nefarious.

As for the DWI, it’s possible that the mayor drank the vodka (or smoked his dope) when he wasn’t behind the wheel, happened to have the empties in his car and then remembered to get rid of them during his meetings with Lisi.

But the evidence in the documents strongly suggests that Ford does get behind the wheel when he shouldn’t be anywhere close to the driver’s side. And the fact that he may get a chauffeur during work hours hardly guarantees that he won’t drive himself home after downing a few at a buddy’s house late one night.

So imagine if we were all talking about a hit-and-run incident or a traffic fatality instead of a lurid video allegedly showing the mayor stoned out of his tree.

Or imagine if the upshot of his excessive drinking was a dead child, struck as the mayor careened through the streets of Toronto in the Escalade that figures so prominently in the court documents. Or say Ford has his own Michael Bryant moment with a cyclist in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At that point, no one will care about unpacking his lies and excuses and evasions. By then, it will be too late to do anything but weep.



  1. This is something I thought as I was reading the ITO. I think it might get addressed if Mr. Ford actually talked to the media, but if he can control the narrative, it’s never going to be mentioned.

  2. And we also now have an admission he was “hammered” on the Danforth. By all accounts, he drove there, parked blocks away and stumbled to Taste of the Danforth. No one actually saw him drink AT Taste of the Danforth. Therefore, he either a) drove there hammered or b) drove there sober and downed his “pop” in the SUV or on the way (both also illegal.)

    This man needs help. He’ll be taken out of City Hall in handcuffs or by EMS.

  3. Clarification: By “critics,” I meant politicians and media commentators. There are, of course, individuals in the city who have publicly expressed grave misgivings about the mayor’s drinking and driving.

  4. I’ve wondered why a bigger deal wasn’t made about this after he appeared drunk at Taste of the Danforth. He was clearly drunk and those videos show him around his parked SUV. He either got wasted and drove to the Danforth, or he drove there, then drank alone in the street. At the time I wondered why no one was asking harder questions about this kind of behaviour and now that it’s been all but proven that the mayor drinks and drive, I’m shocked no one’s making a bigger deal of it.

    Kudos to you John for bringing it up publicly. Our inability to deal with a mayor who is inept and embarrassing is one thing, but our failure to do something about a repeat drunk driver might actually cost someone their life.

  5. Of course, in all this Ford’s drinking and driving is the big story. However, society really only pays lip service when they act outraged about drinking and driving, hence the newspapers gloss over it for the more sensational…. oooh…. drugs. The courts certainly don’t treat DUI seriously. The cops don’t give a damn except when it makes them and their overseers money. The irony is that society cares even less if someone’s vice is drugs. Now if a racist or homophobic comment…..

  6. There’s so much swirling around Ford, it can be hard to keep focus. Shame, but it’s true. I’m glad this is getting attention now, but I wrote exactly what people are saying the media didn’t, at the time it happened; nobody saw Ford drink at Taste of the Danforth and, worse, he was shuttled away literally by the police, who didn’t question how he drove there. Ford, mostly Doug, gave a BS excuse and everyone moved on to the next scandal. (Is the strategy to deflect from a scandal by creating a new one?)

  7. nice to speculate and slur someone… no matter how well deserved. Arrest him.. prove it…
    and move onto some interesting news… !

  8. If he killed a kid while drunk driving his “Ford Nation” would still blame it on a liberal media conspiracy and say it’s a “witch hunt”

  9. John – It’s these subtle things that lay beneath the surface that are actually the most damning. Ford supporters, get all bent out of shape by the big ones (The video) but where I question their loyalty and intellect is on things like this. Go back a few months and Rob Ford supported by his brother, gave us the impression that he did not drink. In fact, he was calling the media, “pathological liars” for suggesting that the Mayor drank. So, we’ve gone from that, to an admission by the Mayor that, he’s been, “hammered” on the job and on official duties. Ford supporters are OK with, the dishonesty here? That they have been lied to and mislead in such a massive manner. And the Mayor’s solution to this – He’ll try and be less, “hammered”, in the future. That’s encouraging! This is where, Ford supporters knee-jerk to saying, “well it’s just a couple of beers”, skipping completely over the lying and the deceit, and your point about the real serious safety issue the Mayor or anyone poses getting behind the wheel of vehicle when they are “hammered”.

  10. I find it interesting that both the mayor and his brother often refer to alcoholic drinks as “pops,” as in “he had a couple of pops, big deal.” It’s another form of denial. No alcohol. No problem.

  11. Yes, a real concern about driving and drinking exists, but it’s likely part of that war on the car right? It does seem sadly normal that we don’t go putting two and two together, and maybe he’s just really practiced at masking it all, though there was a tweet awhile weeks back about a cyclist getting bumped by Ford on Dundas St. W.
    It’d be really really nice to have all politicians forsake their driving privileges for one month of a year just to know what it’s like to take transit, walk, and bike around – and no drivers allowed. Just as some cyclists don’t know some irritating things we do, maybe having a different modality might help some of them.

  12. I am also very concerned that he was engaged in some of these activities while caring for children – at his child’s soccer game and when putting a toddler in his car after receiving a package placed in his car.

  13. Janice Ykema: Interesting choice of words: “slur someone.” Are you talking about Ford’s diction after one of his recent benders?

  14. In reference to the term *pops*, It is obviously of the wobbly variety.This chick is waiting to see this weeble wobble, and when he falls down, he most definately will not be getting up any time soon.
    Step 1 We admitted we were powerless…Come on Mr. Ford, admit it already!!!!

  15. Yesterday, Boston, Massachusetts elected a recovering alcoholic as mayor. His story of dealing with addiction, as well as childhood cancer, resonated with voters. It even made the New York Times. Something for Ford to think about.