Toronto tornado


If one had asked, only a matter of days ago, what Toronto and the British co-operative movement have in common, one likely response could have been the unkind, and inaccurately stereotyping claim that they both top the world league of the boringly worthy. Not so any more. Both can now also lay claim to drunken, drug-taking, incompetent senior executives who like to party. Certainly not dull.

“I guess if he makes Toronto seem like a fun city, that’s a good thing,” Manny Amaral, a constituent of Mayor Rob Ford, told the New York Times. But that’s hardly the view being taken by the Canada Tourism Commission, or by the embarrassed board of the Co-op which has similar image problems with its former Co-op bank chairman, the Rev Paul Flowers, and his proclivity for hard drugs.

Mayoral scandals are a speciality of Canada’ s southern neighbour – Washington DC, Detroit, and various cities in New Jersey, to mention but the most notorious. But Toronto’s Rob Ford is a real doozy with a long history of profane, intemperate outbursts in the council. He was elected to the mayoralty on an ultra-conservative, Tea Party-like programme on behalf of the disgruntled suburbs to end the municipal “gravy train”.

His problems started a couple of months ago when local papers reported they had film of him taking crack cocaine, a PR disaster exacerbated by TV interviews in which he championed the joys of oral sex, and boasted of buying illegal drugs and of driving after drinking. A local Santa parade had to exclude him for turning up drunk.

When councillors tried to take him to task at a meeting on Monday he and his brother, a man cut from the same cloth, turned the chamber into a shouting match and in the tumult succeeded in knocking down a council member, Pam McConnell, a 5-foot-tall grandmother.

The council stripped him of most of his powers, short of taking his title back or his right to cut ribbons, and most of his staff has now deserted him. Ford has no intention of resigning.