Reasons to Love Toronto 2014: #18. Because Carol Wilding Had the Guts to Call Ford Out
For the last few years, Torontonians have been reluctant guests at a raucous Rob Ford house party, standing idly by in the corner of the room, alternately giggling, whispering and shaking our heads while our debauched host drinks himself into a stupor, gets high and throws insults at the assembled crowd. In defending his actions, Ford spins the truth, pre-empting criticism by laying blame on everyone else. And the strategy has worked. Precious few public figures—including the premier, members of the legislature and parliament, even high-profile corporate CEOs with nothing to lose—have stood up and called for his resignation, leaving the voiceless masses hostage to the ongoing dysfunction.
What a relief it was, then, to see one of our civic leaders break from the horde and call the mayor out on his idiotic ways. After police confirmed the crack video’s existence, Carol Wilding, head of the Toronto Region Board of Trade, issued a statement asking the mayor to take a leave of absence. Seldom has a Board of Trade announcement generated so much media attention—evidence that Wilding was filling an obvious void. Predictably, the mayor’s chief henchman, brother Doug, attacked Wilding’s credibility, saying she wasn’t in touch with 90 per cent of her membership. Wilding was unfazed.
In another bold move, she refused to invite the mayor to the board’s annual dinner—a gathering of 1,500 businesspeople and regional politicians. Ford showed up anyway. Rather than shifting seats around to accommodate the unexpected guest, board staffers placed him at a remote back table, next to the exit. And when Wilding stood up to deliver her opening address, she didn’t hold back. She castigated a squirming Ford for his lack of leadership and the shameful behaviour that had consumed city hall. Her address amounted to a public intervention. And with that, the chastened Ford, perhaps momentarily grateful for the second-class seating, quietly slipped out, leaving his free meal untouched.