The Star figures out how to get Toronto civic leaders to comment on Rob Ford: hold a gun to their heads

The Star figures out how to get Toronto civic leaders to comment on Rob Ford: hold a gun to their heads

(Image: Ford: Christopher Drost)

Strong opinions on Rob Ford aren’t in short supply. The mayor was a polarizing guy to begin with, and his crack scandal has created even more ideological distance between his supporters and his detractors. Just about the only place it’s unusual to hear an unkind word spoken about Ford is in the financial district, where many of Toronto’s business leaders have spent the past three years prudently refusing to badmouth a guy who, for all anyone knows at this point in time, could continue running the city until 2018 or later. There’s no percentage in criticizing him.

Enter the Star’s recent experiment, which involved sending a written request for comment on Ford’s antics to 70 “civic leaders” and promising to publish any response they received—including no response.

The campaign has been criticized as an exercise in “bullying” and “veiled threats” (both of those epithets are courtesy of Thornhill MP Peter Kent, whose response to the Star’s letter was written in super-angry all caps), but it did have the intended effect. The responses and non-responses, which the Star published on Saturday, do a reasonable job of dividing Toronto’s business and intellectual elite according to their honesty and their tolerance for political risk.

A few of the Ford-should-resign responses came from predictable sources. For instance, U of T’s Richard Florida was included in the survey despite the fact that he has publicly called Ford “the worst mayor in the modern history of cities” on more than one occasion. Some of the more surprising responses came from the leaders and former leaders of prominent nonprofits. Toronto Community Foundation CEO Rahul Bhardwaj issued a searing condemnation of Ford, despite the fact that TCF, at least as of a year ago, was administering Ford’s own private charity. Less surprising was the total silence from for-profit business leaders, with the exception of Barrick Gold chairman Peter Munk, whom the Star notes joined the call for Ford to step aside back in November.

The Star even sent a letter to Drake, who unfortunately didn’t respond. Maybe he’d rather not get himself involved with yet another struggling Toronto institution. Whatever the case, the rest of the responses are here.