Saving a political career and a life

I was largely unaware of Rob Ford until a few years ago when I read about his ambitious plan to bring an NFL team to Toronto.

I was largely unaware of Rob Ford until a few years ago when I read about his ambitious plan to bring an NFL team to Toronto.

The story was more whimsy than fact, but I sent emails to both Ford brothers on Toronto’s city council about my concerns that a Toronto National Football team would ultimately be the death of our own Canadian Football League.

I never received a response from either Rob or Doug, but now it appears their Toronto NFL dreams are not their greatest issue in 2013.

Mayor Ford has been front page news many times over the past few years because of his bad behaviour.

Truth be told, I met many Rob Fords during my 20-odd years in the bar business; overweight middle-aged guys with caustic personalities who lived large and displayed an enormous lack of control when under the influence. These kind of people lacked couth, tact and most other crucial elements of socially acceptable behaviour, but the Rob Fords of this world were also very good at their chosen careers or business.

Ford is a poster boy for success at City Hall. He reduced Toronto’s massive debt and produced a $270-million budget surplus in 2011 by trimming costs on a sinking financial ship. He made many enemies in the process because he slashed city employee numbers and non-essential programs in a huge way. He alienated the Toronto media and behaved in an incredibly undignified fashion on many occasions during his tenure as mayor.

The wild behaviour culminated in a well-publicized crack cocaine video that has put him in the spotlight again for all of the wrong reasons. Ford initially lied about his indiscretion and now he has admitted his participation in the crack pipe incident because he has been cornered on the issue.

There is little to like about Rob Ford beyond his uncanny ability to balance the books in a public service environment where all expenditures, even costly and unnecessary ones, are deemed sacred territory. His connection to the destructive and sleazy world of crack cocaine makes him even less likable, particularly after he lied about his involvement.

Ford’s admission was a good first move if he wants to win his next election, in October 2014. He clearly has some giant personal demons and now would be the time to address them as part of an early mayoralty campaign. He cannot fix his personality, but he can take steps to make his life less of a circus act. He needs to quit the booze binges for starters and actually address the substance abuse issue in a legitimate rehabilitation program.

Ford is an obese 44-year-old man with bad habits that include everything from numerous infamous booze stories to a crack cocaine episode. The situation will be self-correcting when he gets fitted with a toe tag, if he chooses to ignore the obvious and continue his bad habits.

The rise and fall of Rob Ford will be measured by how he handles his personal demons.

The world will forgive a guy who makes a sincere effort to make much-needed changes to his life because it is in our nature to hand out an occasional mulligan, even to unlikable people like Ford. He has a golden opportunity to play an underdog role in his battle against his own destructive behaviour and that decision would score popularity points for him.

The big question for an aging alpha male like Ford will be whether he buys into the program enough to make changes that will save both his political career and his life.

My best guess on the guy would be no, based upon many years of first-hand experience with the Rob Fords of this world.

Jim Sutherland is a local freelance writer.