For those who take their humour black, this November turned out to be Trovember — as in treasure trove.
The misadventures of Toronto mayor Rob Ford, the imploding Death Star of Toronto city hall, momentarily blocked out other news transmissions while bestowing The Farce on late night comics. As of month’s end, the chief exports of Greater Toronto are said to be jokes and puns.
In between Ford’s collisions with councillors and the English language, there was Justin Trudeau’s confession of “admiration” for Red China’s dictatorship — suggesting the Liberal leader has all the gravitas of a Spongebob Squarepants lunchbox. But this faux pas had nothing on the federal follies in the Senate, what with Duffy and company running around slamming doors and orating like characters in a bedroom farce.
It’s been ages since the cultural coalface has promised so many gems — at least not since the mid-’80s, when a B.C. premier chose to live in a plastic castle in a biblical theme park in Richmond called Fantasy Garden World.
It’s been an embarrassment of riches — accent on embarrassment — but I’m not one to look a line of prize stallions in the mouth. JP Morgan’s epic Twitter fail; Gordon Wilson’s about-face on liquid natural gas; B.C. Ferries’ fiscal shell games; B.C. Hydro’s strong-arming on rates and smart meters, the Duffy/Wright/Harper clusterfund: Trovember kept disgorging foolishness like a circus car full of clowns.
As an editorial cartoonist, I’ve never had more material at one time, but by mid-month the creative possibilities were outpacing my editorial opportunities. And as the swill and swinery rose to Animal Farm pitch, my satiric enthusiasm was tempered with dark thoughts about the fate of our nation.
Luckily, the hijinx from Hogtown saved me from a funk. The Daily Show host Jon Stewart pleaded to the bumptious mayor to get help, saying he thought of him “as a long-term investment.” The late-night oracles welcomed Ford’s ready-made absurdism but “serious” journalists with notepads and microphones had a spot of trouble. Nothing in J-school prepared them for that infamous press conference, which ended with Mayoralty Dumpty insisting he had plenty of something gender-specific to eat at home. The gobsmacked newsunits struggled to parse the bleeped quote without waking the gnomes at the CRTC.
Ford has two tribes of apologists, from opposite sides of the political spectrum. On the left, there are those who insist the man deserves our empathy because of his supposed multiple addictions. Really? Certainly every living human being is a work in progress, but the label-and-sticker heir is a public figure. If his misdeeds warrant it, he is entirely worthy of being laughed — no, shamed — out of office.
When a guy serially lies, does hard drugs in the company of gang members, is charged with assault, threatens to kill his wife and parades around in a drunken stupour at public events, he is in trouble. When a guy does the above while holding elected office, his constituents are in trouble.
Meanwhile on the right, 25 per cent of Torontonians continue to support their stripped-of-powers mayor, according to polls. Back in 2010, Ford leveraged exurb disdain for the wealthy, inner city demographic into a mayoralty win. So what’s a little crack? It seems many in Ford Nation interpreted their leader’s substance abuse as further evidence of his common man touch.
The larger context has mostly gone unremarked in the mainstream media, starting with the optics of a politician who could have set himself up for blackmail by criminal networks accessing the crack-smoking video. And what does it say when a significant fraction of voters in Canada’s biggest city have embraced civic leadership worthy of a failed state megaslum?
It’s completely absurd, like everything else this month, but imagine the ultimate absurdity: Ford exiting the mayor’s office, doing a tearful tell-all before Dr. Phil or Dr. Drew and, with the help of his trainer (a guy convicted of trafficking steroids), reinventing himself as reformed, ripped representative of the “little guy,” before slouching towards 24 Sussex Drive for all the populism he can eat.
The Canadian in me — homesick for a nation that’s gone missing — consoles himself that this is impossible, while the caricaturist in me wishes every month was Trovember.
The Vancouver Courier, Nov. 28