Toronto Mayor Rob Ford recently made headlines after a leaked video of him smoking crack cocaine went viral, forcing him to admit to drug use that had occurred while he was allegedly inebriated. The mayor of Canada’s largest city is now under pressure from city councilmembers and citizens to resign, and on Monday, the council voted to strip the mayor of many of his powers, essentially allowing him to retain only ceremonial duties.
Other than charges of drug use, Ford has been faced with claims of lewd and racist behavior and language. A massive police document was released last Wednesday outlining 97 allegations against Ford, according to the Toronto Star. The accusations range from hiring prostitutes and driving while intoxicated, to wasting taxpayers’ money and abusing his staff.
Political scandal is by no means a new issue in North America, and the U.S. government has had its fair share of politicians’ illicit behavior come to light. Gen. David Petraeus tendered his resignation after a leaked chain of emails revealed an extramarital affair with his biographer. Former Representative Anthony Weiner resigned from his seat in Congress roughly three weeks after a sexting scandal involving several women was revealed.
The difference here, however, is that all these public figures chose to resign their posts, due to outside urging or otherwise, where Ford continues to refuse to step down.
Even though Ford has publicly acknowledged and apologized for his actions, the embattled mayor has rejected calls for his resignation and declared that he has given up alcohol for good. The city council does not have the power to remove the mayor from office unless he has been convicted of a crime, and Ford has even stated that he plans to run for re-election next year. During the city council meeting in which Ford lost many of his powers, a heated debate broke out and the mayor even charged the gallery at one point, knocking down a councilwoman in the process.
Drugs impact the state of mind of individuals who use them, both by chemically interfering with the function of their bodies and through the disease of addiction. Whether Ford acknowledges it or not, he has likely been affected by these consequences.
Aside from his apparent drug and alcohol abuse, Ford’s behavior has been erratic ever since the international spotlight has shifted to the city when the scandal broke out. Ford surely deserves the punishments inflicted on him by the city council, despite his protests, but these power limitations do not stop Ford from retaining his title as the city’s top official. The fact is, this man is not in the right state of mind to be running a city.
The Canadian government does not seem to have a clear plan as to how they will manage the situation. Unless Ford is formally charged in a criminal court, there is a real possibility that he will remain in office until the end of his term next year. Even if he is charged, however, criminal cases take an extended period of time to resolve.
This issue indicates a need for greater checks on power in city government, Canadian or otherwise. Scandals involving drug abuse differ from sex scandals because they impact an individual physically as well as psychologically. If a criminal conviction is impossible, there needs to be another way to ensure the best interest of the city and its citizens.
The scandal involving Ford might be shocking, but it’s important to remember that a real city and real people are suffering the consequences of one man’s drug binge. Let’s hope Toronto doesn’t crack under the pressure.
Chelsea Stone is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism. She is also the associate managing editor at the Daily Trojan.
Follow Chelsea on Twitter @chels_stone