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Rob Ford’s a wreck, Doug Ford’s a spectacle

2011/12/12

From the TORONTO STAR

Year One AF (After Ford) and Toronto is a different city. The new cast at City Hall has its place in the public consciousness and with a few exceptions, all actors are performing pretty much as expected. Mayor Rod Ford’s monosyllabic governance, his subtract-and-conquer style, now seems ordinary, as do the passive-aggressive ministrations of his budget chief, Mike Del Grande. Peter Milczyn’s weasel tactics barely raise an eyebrow these days; neither does Giogio Mamolitti’s political street-walking. Denzil Minnan-Wong continues to be more petulant than provocative and Frances Nunziata still snarls when told. The exception, of course, is Doug Ford, Rob’s big brother and rookie Ward 2 Councillor.

Dauntless Doug has come out from the shadow of his younger sibling to steal the show at City Hall. The spotlight loves him. Unexpectedly but spectacularly, he has established himself as one of those characters every city loves to have around, someone who speaks and acts with utter unselfconsciousness. Doug is equal parts Harold Ballard and Homer Simpson, with a little Beverly Hillbillies thrown in for added appeal. Beneath that worldly exterior and ample girth lurks a true innocent, a naïf, a guileless fool. He’s one of those rare individuals who lack any awareness of their own lack of awareness. The most memorable example was his revelation that he’d never heard of Margaret Atwood. In this plugged-in age, that sort of ignorance is hard to find, even on City Council. That, “liberry” closures, Port Lands Ferris wheels, NFL stadiums in Lake Ontario, Ultimate Fighting Championship anti-bullying campaigns and his daughter’s Lingerie League make it clear that Doug never learned shame.

Citizens have also gotten involved in City Hall’s new theatricality; once Rob Ford turned the public consultation process into Toronto’s Got Talent, deputants responded enthusiastically with poetry, polemics and heartfelt testimonials. They laughed. They cried. They begged and pleaded, threatened and cajoled — with very little prompting and at all hours of the day and night.

No one enjoyed the spectacle more than Doug. Last week, one particularly poignant presentation managed to inspire him to reach into those deep pockets of his and write a cheque on the spot for $1,000. That’s the equivalent of winning the grand prize, a ticket to stardom, or in this case, survival. Even when Doug feels charitable, he remains utterly oblivious of the larger point, but in a way so obviously well-intentioned that many confused his donation with generosity.

There aren’t many public figures who can get away with such behaviour on the basis of nothing more than their own ignorance. This is no mean feat; it makes Doug a compelling figure on the civic stage. Unlike, say, his brother, whose ratings have been in freefall almost since the beginning, Doug only appears to be his own worst enemy. In fact, he’s his own best friend. The problem with Rob is that he’s actually deadly dull and has little to say. If he dreams at all, it is in low-def. When he does speak, it’s only to repeat the same lines, all of them ending with the word gravy. Doug is the dreamer of the family, an unabashed big thinker blissfully unfettered by fear of embarrassment or inadequacy. Everything Rob does — whether walking or talking — feels laboured and painful. We wince when he talks. We rush to finish his sentences, if not his thoughts. But when Doug speaks, we listen with interest, even excitement, never knowing what will come next. He keeps us on the edge of our seats, hoping the curtain will never come down.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. George Henry permalink
    2011/12/20 7:31 pm

    Excellent articles I will be checking back regularly. Thanks!

  2. Paul permalink
    2011/12/24 11:20 am

    Well Said.

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