Author

Sarah Thomson

Browsing

Rob Ford’s staff played a role

From not reporting Rob Ford’s drunk driving to denying his behaviour, the unredacted police report released Thursday reveals how the staff surrounding Mr. Ford enabled him, at the cost and risk to all those who crossed his path.

I know I’m not the only one in Toronto who sifted through the police report last Thursday night wondering if my name would be implicated. I am sure the staff who were interviewed by police wish this sordid business would all blow over, but should his former staff get off with little repercussion for their involvement in what has turned out to be the worst case of enabling that has rocked Toronto in decades?

I found my name, albeit misspelled, on page 72 of the police report. The lines (below) referred to the incident at the CJPAC event where Mr. Ford’s behaviour was both aggressive and lascivious. But what infuriates me most in reading this was to learn that his Chief of Staff, Mark Towhey, misled the press about Mr. Ford’s true condition at the event. He told press that there was nothing wrong with the Mayor, that he was sober. But in the police report (excerpt below) Towhey admits that he was concerned about Mr. Ford’s condition (aggressive and slurring words) and asked him not to attend the event.
____________
Canadian Jewish Public Affairs Committee (CJPAC) Event and Sarah THOMPSON (sic) Allegations
ii) The incident at CJPAC with Sarah THOMPSON involved the allegation that The Mayor groped her and was on drugs that night. TOWHEY and PROVOST were both there that night with the Mayor.
jj) The Mayor arrived with Sandro as the driver.
kk) Sandro is not on the staff of the Mayor. TOWHEY was concerned that night when he spoke with the Mayor on the phone prior to his arrival. He again sounded a little “hyperactive and slurring his words”. Again, TOWHEY asked him not to come.
ll) The Mayor attended the event and ended up behaving himself. There were 3 staff members around him at all times. TOWHEY believes that the Sarah THOMPSON allegations are false.
mm) The Mayor arrived to the CJPAC intoxicated by something. TOWHEY never saw him drink while he was there; in fact TOWHEY has never seen the Mayor drink alcohol at all, ever.
TOWHEY’s beliefs in relation to Mayor FORD’s alcohol use
nn) TOWHEY has maybe attended 25 to 30 events with the Mayor. He has never seen him consume alcohol at any of these events. TOWHEY had suspicions that it was maybe mixed in his drinks but cannot be sure.
oo) He believes that the Mayor is an alcoholic. Staff members routinely buy alcohol for the Mayor because they do not want him doing it himself. As soon as the Mayor walks into a liquor store it is on Twitter.
pp) TOWHEY was advised every time a staff member left the office to go and buy the Mayor alcohol. It was TOWHEY’s belief that the Mayor consumed alcohol while at City Hall.
qq) The Mayor would normally sound the worst late at night. This would be when he would sound the most incoherent. This could sometimes be attributed to him not getting any sleep, which would happen often as well.
rr) FICKEL had told TOWHEY that one time the Mayor had stopped and consumed a “mickey” of vodka while driving. After hearing this TOWHEY implemented a new rule that if staff was driving with the Mayor then they would have to drive. The Mayor was never to drive any of the staff around.

_________________

The report goes on at length about other issues involving drugs, prostitutes and inappropriate behaviour with a female staff member, but what stood out time and again was the level of support  his staff gave time and again to enable Mr. Ford to keep up the charade. They all knew about Mr. Ford’s drinking, they had heard rumours of drugs and yet they all stood together as a wall limiting Toronto from learning the truth about our Mayor. They knew that if the truth got out they could lose their positions, but they were also given a clear message when chief of staff, Mark Towhey refused to address the fact that the Mayor of Toronto had broken the law. If Towhey had done the right thing and reported the incident to police, other staff might have come forward. Why didn’t Towhey report the incident to the police? Was he afraid they might follow the Mayor and catch him driving drunk? Was it self-interest, blind loyalty or heart-felt sympathy that drove Towhey to place Mr. Ford above the law?

The events of the past 2 years at city hall demonstrate the extent to which the staff working under Mr. Ford enabled him. It isn’t surprising. Greed has a way of making people rationalize things and they all wanted to keep their jobs. But what disgusts me most is the lack of respect they had for their positions. Never did Towhey, nor any of the other staff, think about their role as government employees who actively covered up the lies and actions of a Mayor driven by addiction. By going along with his charade they corrupted both the office of Mayor and the trust we as citizens place in it.

I will remember you

Remembrance Day is the time to remember those who fought for our freedom. My father was a Second World War veteran. He served in the air force in Gander, Newfoundland until the back of his skull was smashed against the roof of his plane during an accident on a surveillance flight in 1943. He spent months in a coma and was discharged with a metal plate in his head. He could never fly again.

I asked him why he had volunteered. His answer was that Hitler represented a threat against humanity and civility and everyone faced a choice — to look the other way or to fight. And, like most young people of his time, he believed that his choice mattered more than his life. He believed that he could make a difference and that belief is what won the war.

On Remembrance Day, I try to think of the men and women who gave up their way of life, who put their dreams and hopes on hold and who died in the fight for freedom. I try to put myself in their shoes, to imagine them with human strengths and frailties.

Imagine an 18-year-old boy signing up for a war he knew nothing about, doing so out of a sense of duty and honour. Think of him the week before he left home, noticing the leaves changing colour from the cold nights of fall, or watching the wind whip across the lake, blowing the waves into whitecaps as a storm approaches.

The day his ship sails, does he stride up the gangplank with any regrets? His sister and mother wave to him from the shore, hope and fear fill their eyes. Nobody said what they were all thinking — “Will this be the last time our eyes meet?” He wouldn’t know what the next day had in store for him, let alone the coming months. His hope is his only comfort as he watches his country slip away in the distance.

Or picture a man who was too young for the First World War and older than most of the men headed into the second. He leaves the embrace of his wife and children as he boards a train heading to the coast, where he’ll meet a ship that will take him to Europe. He’s finished basic training and is on his way to the front. His chances for survival are slim but so too are his options. He goes because he couldn’t hold his head high as he watched the younger men leave for the war. He wasn’t at ease in his home thinking of what they had to endure.

The newspapers fill him with rage. He loves his life and is afraid, but he now gets a sense of strength each time he puts on his uniform. He looks down at his children waving to him from the platform of the railway station and he smiles. He wants them to remember him with a smile. His eyes meet his wife’s. They are filled with tears because she knows why he smiles.

Or think of the woman whose brothers and husband have left for a war she is barely a part of. She works in a factory making munitions while her son is in school. She wants to do more. She is alone in a world with very few men. She notices the emptiness in her world but tries to keep busy with her job and her son. She works as hard as she can and wonders if the bullets she makes will keep her husband safe. She believes that they will stop the Nazis from gaining ground, and this keeps her going. She cries every night once her son is in bed. She tries not to despise the men who have stayed behind.

She waits, writing to her husband every night. His letters come sporadically. They stop and she knows something is wrong. She gets a letter from him that was lost in the mail; it is months old, but she reads it over and over again every night.

One day, a black car with two uniformed men stops in front of the house. The tears start flowing before she has opened the door. She will go on, her life forever changed. She learns to cope with the loneliness, and her husband fills her dreams. She sleeps in his shirts until they fall apart. The war ends, her son grows up and with each passing year he becomes more like his father. When he boards the train to go off to college their eyes meet; he has his father’s eyes and she is overwhelmed with the memory of the last time she saw her husband. She will cry again that night.

And remember the man trapped in a prison camp, separated from his family in the middle of the night by authorities who don’t recognise his humanity. He remembers gunshots and screams but does not know if his wife and children are alive or dead. He works every day moving piles of sand from one side of the camp to the other. The camp is full of men, women, and children. But his world is little more than hunger and emptiness. The sun on his face has no warmth. The guards treat them like animals but he knows they must do this in order to separate themselves from their captives and live with their atrocities. He tries not to think of his life as it was, but it haunts him. He dreams of his past and is afraid to lose hope because without it he will lose his sanity. At night he works with others to dig a tunnel beneath the fence. They are caught and he takes responsibility for it. He stands in front of a firing squad on a sunny day and for a brief moment he can feel the warmth of the sun on his face.

With these thoughts I remember those that gave their lives to the war — men and women who lived and died with honour

Madame Ford blinded by empty ambition

Rob Ford’s mother came out yesterday on CP24 to deny. Deny her son is an addict, deny he has any bigger problem than a weight issue. She is the mother of enabling. She seems to believe the left wing politicians are behind a conspiracy to get her son out of city hall and while this may be partially true, she refuses to see that there is a bigger issue at stake — her son’s life.

She seems a woman blinded by primal desire to win at all costs, blinded to the signs that all point to addiction.

Her world is one that puts political life above everything else, so much so that I wonder if there is resentment or bitterness that their suburban wealth, and propulsion to the forefront of civic life didn’t earn them a position within the establishment? Is she a Ford wanting to be a Lexus? Does she think she has a second chance through her son – no matter what the cost on him?

She seems to be putting her son’s role as mayor before her son as a human being. While many have wondered why a rich kid from the suburbs would want to escape into a crack-induced haze, Rob Ford may be surrounded by a family who see politics as a life long endeavor, a family focused completely on how others see them. It’s no wonder he seeks to escape – how empty is a world where status is the highest endeavour?

The Ford Sunday radio show is one of their strategic achievements. I can picture mother Ford listening by the radio hanging on to their every word.  The sons list their achievements, sliding over the true work others did –  like Councillor Ana Bailao who single-handedly refinanced TCHC loans –  claiming the achievement as their own. They often list their charitable contributions, clawing for a position within an establishment that finds them vulgar and lacking.

None of the Ford’s seem to realize how empty the desire to be accepted is  — except perhaps Rob Ford.  And that’s the rub. While people have always pegged Rob as the dumber younger brother, he may actually be the smartest in his family. A man who might have become an artist, an actor, a thinker  — surrounded by a family whose biggest desire is to be accepted by the “Joneses.” A family so skewed by the need for political success they have lost touch with the human desire to grow and learn. Imagine being a child growing up in a family like this.

While many will think I hate Rob – I don’t. He has a heart and when straight he’s actually a nice guy. Problem is he’s acting a role that his mother wants him to play and it’s killing him. This past week people have said that I must feel vindicated, but that is an empty feeling given the critical level of the situation. I feel more a sadness. Sad for Rob, sad that his family is so politically motivated they have chosen to ignore his cry for help. Rob is a victim of circumstance caught in the small world of low level political opportunity. If I was caught in a family like that I wonder if I too would try to escape it through drugs and alcohol? He once told me that he loved the theatre and during high school he had been in a play that was one of his best memories – that is the first and only time I saw the real Rob Ford and unfortunately I think that man is now lost to a world of alcohol and drugs. The spirit inside him is trapped with nowhere to go but down.

The future for Rob Ford doesn’t look promising. The more his family prop him up the farther he has to fall. He has a choice only he can make. Does he break away from a family who want him to be someone he isn’t, who demand he forever focus on politics, and instead discover a vast world where he can learn and grow? Or does he drug himself daily to get through the emptiness of a life that is completely focused on small time local politics? Could Rob Ford be a big frog trapped and forced to swim in a small scummy pond? 

The arrogance of Rob Ford

I’ve rebelled against Mr. Ford since the 2010 election campaign. The campaign for mayor lasted nearly 10 months for me. I was one of the top 5 candidates, and in the top 3 at one point in the race. The days were long, usually starting at 7am and running until midnight. From events, to rallies, debates and social functions the top 5 candidates saw one another almost every day and often more than once in a day.

Over time a sense of respect develops amongst the candidates. Respect for each other, for the strengths you see in another, for the way most of them answered questions honestly.

Unfortunately that respect never developed between Rob Ford and myself. He would never look me in the eye and his handshake was limp, often soggy. I couldn’t believe the way he twisted the truth during the campaign. Suggesting he could pay for subways with government efficiencies (ignoring the huge debt we must pay down). Or suggesting he would get rid of the land transfer tax, and lower taxes. He made more fake promises than I could count, and the public seemed to lap it up.

It takes ignorance and a lack of self-respect to peddle such absolute bullshit, and Mr. Ford possesses both. But it takes true arrogance to continue to peddle the bullshit for 3 years following the campaign without delivering on your promises. And it is this arrogance that lost my respect for him from those early days of the 2010 campaign.

I am not sure if he thinks people are stupid enough to believe that he saved Toronto $1Billion; or if he simply knows that repetition builds belief and facts take longer to come out? But there are still people in Toronto who believe that Rob Ford has not raised taxes (they have increased by 4.5% since 2010). There are people who aren’t aware that the city operating budget has also grown by $200million since 2010 and who don’t question where the Billion in savings has gone. People still believe that Mr. Ford will get rid of the land transfer tax, despite the fact that he has raised their taxes by 4.5% over the past 2 years.
And the biggest lie – that he will build subways with funds created through efficiencies, when he has admitted that he didn’t find enough to pay for subways and will have to increase property taxes to pay for the Scarborough subway line next year.

Mr. Ford hasn’t just lied about his private life he has lied about what he has accomplished, he has taken credit for the work of former Councillor Doug Holiday (union agreements), Councillor Ana Baeleo (Refinancing of TCHC loans) and others. He has stretched the truth to such a degree that I don’t think he himself knows what it is anymore.

It takes true arrogance, a sense of entitlement, and a lack of self-respect to lie to the public to the degree that Rob Ford has, but the scheme has taken it’s toll on him. How much more bullshit can one man spin out before they themselves disappear in the charade?

Cracking the Hard Truths for Toronto

Cracking Hard Truths for Toronto

Hard Truth # 1 Rob Ford has admitted he has smoked crack

Hard Truth # 2 Rob Ford has not saved Toronto 1 Billion dollars

Hard Truth # 3 Rob Ford has increased property taxes by 4.5% (2012 = 2.5% + 2013 = 2%)

Hard Truth # 4 Rob Ford has increased the city operating budget by $200 million since 2010.

Hard Truth # 5 Rob Ford considers drug addicts and gang members his friends

Hard Truth # 6. Rob Ford lied about finding enough savings at city hall to fund subways

Hard Truth #7 All levels of government are in debt and we must implement a transit toll or tax if we want to expand our subway/transit system.

It is time for Rob Ford to step down

“I am Disappointed.” This statement that Chief Bill Blair made earlier today sums up what many in Toronto are thinking today.

There will be those, myself included, thinking – finally. Finally the truth is coming out. Finally people are realizing that Rob Ford has lied and brought disgrace to the position of Mayor, and the city of Toronto. Many of his supporters are now faced with having to admit they were fooled, that Rob Ford pull the wool over their eyes. And there will be those who refuse to believe it and resort to “conspiracy theory” excuses. But the facts are coming out, the truth eventually does and it is time that Rob Ford admit he has addiction issues.

I am feeling vindicated but saddened – I remember the man I ran for Mayor against in 2010. A man determined to bring change to the city. I watched as that man slowly deteriorated under the pressure – his actions demonstrating a man facing addiction issues and an inability to deal in the truth. My sympathy go out to his family and children.

From denying incidents like being drunk at a hockey game, groping, and the crack video, Rob Ford has made a habit of lying and denying. This puts a toll on anyone’s self-confidence and escalates the need to escape that drugs offer an addict. The best thing that Rob Ford can do is to take some time and get help with his addiction issues. It is never an easy decision but I encourage him to do it for his family and children.

It is time for Rob Ford to step down from the Mayor’s chair, he has disgraced the city, and set a terrible role model for our children.

Has Kathleen Wynne given up on transit for Toronto?

A call to all Liberals:

Let’s ignore the fact that all the transit experts and planners have spent the past two decades telling us that the most important subway line Toronto should build is a relief line that runs east to west carrying people to and from the suburbs.

Let’s ignore the fact that the Yonge line has exceeded its capacity and that pushing more people onto it by extending the Danforth subway line is not only a foolish idea, but will overburden the system and cost tax payers more over the long run.

Let’s ignore the fact that we know full well that Mayor Ford is simply pushing the Scarborough subway line because he can’t win the next election unless he wins Scarborough.

We are getting very good at ignoring the experts and the facts so let’s also ignore the fact that Toronto is a much larger economic region and all transit we build should have a broader scope of moving people across the region — which because of Lake Ontario, means that our east and west corridors have higher densities and our transit expansion must consider future growth in Etobicoke and Scarborough.

We should also ignore the facts and cling to past planning doctrine that claimed employment nodes would spread employment evenly across the city, it hasn’t actually panned out that way and many companies are moving back to the core placing more stress on the overcrowded Yonge Street subway line.

Let’s simply follow what Mayor Ford wants to do. He’s popular so he must be right.

If there were ever a time for true leadership on Transit it is now. I beg, I plead, and call on Premier Wynne to start leading. We are liberals because we don’t always do what is popular, but we do what is right.

It’s time to do the right thing when it comes to transit. It is time to listen to the experts, take the politics out of transit and build the subway line that will help move people all around the city. The suburban relief line will divert people from Scarborough and Etobicoke off the Yonge line and allow them to get across the city and to the downtown core quickly and efficiently.

It is the right, reasonable and responsible transit line to build, it’s time to pray that Premier Wynne show what a strong leader she is.

Sarah Thomson: My vision for Toronto

Created to tune of The Mull River Shuffle, by The Rankins 

Picture this, it’s 50 years from now on a crowded city street
the corner of Bay and Bloor,
and it’s Monday morning and you’ve just started a long 8 hour day at the office
and the day, the day is ready to begin.

You’re sitting around the board room table
and everyone’s laughing and joking and telling stories about their weekend;
and your about to start a long strategy session
and you look out the window from the 34th floor, and you see…

Big tree’s and green roofs that seem to create a blanket over the city extending as far as the eye can see.
You see big beautiful buildings, works of architecture so grand that those who walk by seem to raise their heads and stand taller as they pass. You identify the subway stations, each marked by architectural masterpieces designed to reflect different cultures, and the diversity that makes Toronto so vibrant.

You look to the south and see the chain of great buildings that sit above every subway station along the  downtown relief subway line, like charms on a charm bracelet some small, others tall and lean. You think about how each one of them has mixed use and mixed income, and about the legislation brought in decades ago that required 10% affordable housing in every new building across the city.  Some of the buildings  have seniors centres and child care facilities mixed in as well, while still others have offices, museums, art galleries, medical clinics and event space.  You look south to the lake and notice the swath of gardens and natural parks and you think about the highway in a tunnel far below them.
You remember the old pictures you’ve seen of ugly strip of concrete holding a highway and a road below it like a wall that blocked people from the waterfront. You see a flock of birds circling the naturalized park land at mouth of the Don river to the east. You remember the old photo’s with telephone poles and hydro wires all long gone, buried when the city decided to take itself seriously.

You’re glad the the old buildings and factories were preserved and restored and see traces of their design in some of the new architecture. You think about the energy that took over Toronto in  the early part of the century when the subway system grew and the people decided to aim for the best and invest all they had into the city.   The traffic on the streets below is light, but the sidewalks are filled with people and activity. Most people live close to their jobs and use the subway to get around.

You wonder what the city might be like if your grandparents hadn’t invested their tax dollars in the early 20s and 30s. The city is known to be one of the leading arts and education centres in North America. You think of slum cities Detroit, Cincinnatti and Baltimore filled with crime, poverty and violence where corruption and lack of investment destroyed the potential they once had. The boardroom door shuts and you are brought back to 2063 and your meeting is about to begin.- The sun glints off the lake and you realize Toronto is still a city of potential.

 

See more at unlockgridlock.ca

 

Follow Sarah Thomson on Twitter at @ThomsonTO.

The Circle of Life

In memory of Grant Whatmough May 24, 1921 – Sept. 14, 1999

Thirteen years have passed since my father died and I remember all he gave me — the innocence of childhood, the safety of it, and the desire to live life as fully as possible.

When I was a girl I would run through the fields with my arms outstretched like wings. The tall grass scratched at my bare legs, almost reaching my arms, but it offered a soft cushion with every fall and a great place to hide from my twin brother. I used to dream of flying. Of swooping over the fields like the barn swallows. I used to climb trees and watch the tall grass roll in the wind, like waves.

One of my favourite songs is Home by Nathan Wiley. The first line goes “When I was a boy I had everything, I had silver and gold.” The song evokes images of his past, falling asleep in the back seat of the car, dreaming of ships he will sail. It reminds me of what home felt like to me as a child — a safe place to think, dream, learn, and set out from. That childhood innocence I once had is something I can only go back to in my dreams, a place where responsibility and worry don’t enter.

Tonight, as I type away at my desk I remember the evenings I had as a child. There were times when my parents had company and I would sneak out of my bed to listen to them talk. They spoke about philosophy, art, politics, love, and life. I remember wishing I would grow up faster so that I could understand more about what they discussed. Life seemed to be just out of reach.

Many of my childhood memories are beautiful and sometimes I wonder if my senses were more finely tuned then. I remember being in bed with my window open and trying to pick out a single voice in a chorus of frogs (spring peepers) that filled the night air. Their voices seemed to create a magical symphony.

I remember running along paths in the dark with nothing but a sparkler to light our way and reaching the crest of a hill to turn and see the sparks from a huge bonfire we had spent months preparing rise until they merged with the stars in the sky above.

I remember evenings when my parents sat out on the lawn to watch the sun set and I, in turn, watched them from my bedroom window. They held hands and sat out there well after the light faded and darkness filled the night with stars.

I still remember my mother waking me in the middle of the night to go for a skate on an ice rink we had flooded earlier in the day. The smoothness of the ice and the stillness of the night with a dog barking from miles away. The star-filled sky stretched over the fields, enveloping them in its silence. I glided over the ice, floating, flying above and through the night, grounded completely in it. The beauty in that moment struck me like never before, but as soon as I took notice it was gone.

My twin brother and I swam in a neighbour’s pond. We explored the nearby swamp and choked on cigarettes made from dried leaves and weeds. We borrowed horses from the neighbouring church camp, snuck into their gospel hall and sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight over their public address system. We flour-bombed their prayer wagon. We grew. I remember the fear and exhilaration that came from swaying in the upper branches of a tall tree on the crest of a hill, as an August thunderstorm rolled, clashing and bursting over the fields, toward us.

The innocence of my childhood left long ago. I know about loss and the feeling of emptiness in the pit of your stomach that has a way of flowing over you, becoming part of you.  I know that the tears of sorrow sting like no other tears. I know that the emptiness stays in you, like a shadow.  I know that happiness can come and go. This knowledge is something I’d never experienced as a child; its price was my innocence. I remember how much I craved being older, I wanted to be free to do anything and to learn as much as I could. And you know, I still crave learning despite the cost.

My childhood home was my Eden. I will never go back because I would never voluntarily give up the knowledge I have gained. But, if I live long enough, my knowledge and my memories might slowly begin to melt away and someday I may indeed regain the innocence I’ve lost. Life is, if you live long enough, one big circle