It’s the mayors, stupid

I won’t be watching Rob Ford on Jimmy Kimmel tonight but I can imagine how it will go. As usual, Ford will mistake notoriety for renown and a high-profile appearance with appreciation. Even so, I don’t know why we’re all so fussed about our current mayor, he joins a long line of officeholders who accomplished little and didn’t go on to do much after they left.

My memory of modern mayors begins with Nathan Phillips (1955-1962). The best story about him is what he missed. In the dying hours of his time as Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker told his staff in 1963, “Send that fellow Phillips to the Senate.” The mayor was so little known outside Toronto that staff thought The Chief must have meant Orville Phillips, an MP and dentist from PEI. He got the appointment instead and sat in the Upper Chamber for the next 36 years.

Then there was William Dennison (1967-72) who once welcomed a dignitary from an African nation. Dennison handed the visitor a pen with which to sign the guest book, saying very slowly as if to a child, “This is a ball point pen.” “I know,” said the visitor, “I went to Oxford.”

Art Eggleton (1980-1991) was mayor for 11 years. I can’t remember a single thing he did. It’s like his legacy was written on Etch-A-Sketch. Mel Lastman (1998-2003) worried about travelling to Africa in case he ended up in a boiling pot of water as dinner for cannibals. David Miller (2003-2010) brought Major League Soccer to Toronto. That turned out so well he sent back his season tickets in disgust part way through the 2013 schedule.

As Mel Lastman once said of Miller prior to his taking office, “You will never be mayor of this city because you say stupid and dumb things.” Apparently it’s a prerequisite for the job. In that regard, Rob Ford fits in just fine.

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