All stories by John Michael McGrath

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Rob Ford’s Official Tweets Vs. Reality: a day-by-day comparison of the last two weeks

In the two weeks since news broke that Rob Ford (allegedly) smokes crack, the mayor has lost his temper, nearly a third of his staff and any semblance of dignity. The mayor’s official Twitter account, however, has been operating in an alternate reality—one in which Ford’s dealing with nothing more pressing than some pesky gypsy moths. Below, we compare life in Fordlandia to what’s really been going on.

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Politics

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Six defences of Rob Ford, from somewhat reasonable to completely crazytown

In a show of Ford Nation’s blindess loyalty, Rob Ford still has more-or-less the same approval rating as before he became the world’s most talked about alleged crack smoker. His supporters run the gamut from tepid defenders, like Doug Holyday, to raving apologists, broadcasting their fealty on Twitter and in comment sections. Here, a representative sample of the rationalizations, from more-or-less plausible through to cuckoo-bananas.

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Politics

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Rob Ford wins his court appeal and remains Toronto’s Mayor. Here’s what happens next

Rob-Ford-Wins-Appeal

The Mayor of Toronto (Image: Christopher Drost)

The verdict came as a bit of a shock. This morning, the Ontario Divisional Court delivered a unanimous decision supporting Rob Ford’s appeal in the conflict of interest case that could’ve permanently terminated his tenure as Toronto’s mayor. Now he gets one full weekend of rest before he grapples with his next potentially career-ending legal problem: the audit into his 201o mayoral campaign financing. Really, it’s pure Rob Ford—brutishly blundering from one near-death political experience to the next. This is the guy, after all, whose election campaign had to deal with a taped offer to get oxycontin for a provocateur and revelations of a DUI and pot possession in the space of just a few weeks. Through it all, though, Ford keeps winning. What’s next for Toronto and its teflon mayor? Here, three scenarios that could play out at city hall in the wake of Ford’s rebirth.

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Random Stuff

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Is Josh Matlow the overlord of the provincial Liberals? Probably not—but the Grits did announce an environmental assessment for his controversial quarry

Councillor Josh Matlow (Image: Toronto.ca)

One of the issues that Josh Matlow has been following is decidedly outside of his ward: the proposed quarry in Melancthon (about 100 kilometres north of Toronto) that could become one of the largest in North America. Matlow previously asked the executive committee at city hall, in turn, to ask the province to force an environmental assessment of the proposed “mega-quarry” project, but before the committee could even meet, the Ontario government beat them to the punch.

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Doug Ford’s waterfront vision is (slowly) being revealed—now with 100 per cent more Australians

Apparently there is something resembling a plan behind Doug Ford’s glorious vision for Toronto’s waterfront. The rumour bouncing around city hall all week—courtesy of the Toronto Star’s Royson James—was that one of the companies sniffing around the Port Lands is the Australian firm Westfield, Inc. The company owns several malls in Australia (although we wouldn’t necessarily call any of them “jaw-dropping,” which is exactly how Ford described the re-envisioned waterfront earlier this week), and it appears to be itching to get in on the action in Toronto. The full reveal is said to come during an executive committee meeting on Tuesday, but more details are starting to emerge in the meantime.

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Toronto is shaping up to be a battleground for the provincial election (but where’s Ford Nation?)

A raft of new polls on the provincial election race is showing the same thing over and over: where once it looked like Tim Hudak could win the election in a cakewalk, it now appears there is a genuine race to form government in Ontario (in one poll, by polling firm Forum Research, only five points separated Hudak from Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty, with NDP leader Andrea Horwath running a strong third). But there is one player who’s noticeable because of the surprisingly weak effect he’s having on the race—Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford.

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Cops found TTC bus driver in possession of pot—right after lethal crash 

By now, we’ve lost track of the number of TTC drivers alleged to have driven while under the influence—and the whole issue just became decidedly unfunny now that it appears that the driver of the bus involved in the fatal traffic incident on Lawrence Avenue East earlier this week had a small quantity of marijuana in his possession (although we hasten to add that there’s no evidence the driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash). Everybody is on this story (see: here, here, here and here) because it combines two things Toronto media love: kvetching about Toronto transit, and illicit drugs (according to the CBC, police are looking into whether the driver should be charged). Read the entire story [National Post] »

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Politics

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Police chief versus mayor: Bill Blair takes on Rob Ford over budget cuts

Every city department is being forced to reckon with major budget cuts—just as Rob Ford instructed earlier this year. Most departments don’t have the public profile or sufficient respect from taxpayers to make a stink about the cuts—unless they have, say, Margaret Atwood in their corner—but the police sure do. Chief of Police Bill Blair has been warning for months now that the budget constraints his department’s facing could lead to close to 1,000 officers and staff getting axed, and as of yesterday he’s no longer being discreet about it.

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Horwath and Hudak both making vague, happy noises about paying for the “privately funded” Sheppard subway

It looks as though Mayor Rob Fords Sheppard subway extension plan might be getting some more love from the people who want to be the next premier than from the guy who currently holds the job. Ford met with NDP leader Andrea Horwath yesterday, and while they came out of the meeting without any firm commitment from the NDP to fund Toronto’s transit system, they did make some pretty positive noises.

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Business

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Finding no buyers for its last few stores, Blockbuster concedes an inevitable, crushing defeat 

In the long, drawn-out saga of Blockbuster Canada’s demise, today marks a grim day for the national movie rental chain: already under a court-ordered receivership, the company is set to shut down all of its few remaining operations. Blockbuster’s folding isn’t just the work of YouTube, Netflix and piracy (we’re pretty sure that the worldwide recession did a lot of the heavy lifting), but it is a fairly impressive sign of how the film market is changing. HMV, for one, is downsizing, including the store at Yonge and Dundas, YouTube Canada just announced it will start renting movies and, in general, the movie retail industry doesn’t look much in 2011 like it did in 2001. Read the entire story [CBC] »

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Strange bedfellows? Stephen Harper chooses Toronto Star columnist Angelo Persichilli as his new PR chief

Angelo Persichilli (Image: Jason Ransom/PMO)

Ottawa has been abuzz this week with rumours surrounding who will replace Dimitri Soudas as Stephen Harper’s director of communications. Well, it turns out Soudas’s official replacement comes from the stranger-than-fiction category—the new whipping boy for frustrated reporters on Parliament Hill is none other than a Toronto Star columnist, one Angelo Persichilli.

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Politics

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Kristyn Wong-Tam blasts Rob and Doug Ford for shooting down the Toronto Olympics bid—but do the brothers deserve it?

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Image: JoeyS4B)

Downtown councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam released an open letter yesterday calling out Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug for, among other things, rejecting a bid for the 2020 summer Olympics without so much as a nod to council. We also noted the Ford’s dismissal of the Olympics at the time, but we have to point out that we agreed with the Fords on this one. Of course, Wong-Tam’s argument isn’t simply about wanting the Olympics—frankly, we’re a little puzzled about why she chose that decision as a springboard for her diatribe—it’s about wanting a better, more democratic process for council.

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Random Stuff

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G20 aftermath: court allows class action lawsuit to proceed

Police at the G20 Summit in Toronto (Image: andrewarchy)

Without any kind of serious, thorough and official reckoning in the wake of the G20 summit in Toronto last summer, we were finally starting to get used to the idea that what Ontario ombudsman André Marin called the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history was going to be brushed off with nothing more than a pat on the head from the feds, a province desperate to pass the buck and an SIU that couldn’t get Toronto police to identify more than a handful of officers. But it looks like we got used to the idea a little too soon. News broke yesterday that a class action lawsuit on behalf of the people rounded up during the G20 will, in fact, go forward.

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CONFIRMED: Tim Hudak will be attending Ford Fest

(Image: Ontario Chamber of Commerce)

This weekend, all of Toronto (well, most of Etobicoke, at least) will be checking out the cul-de-sac at the Ford family compound to see who arrives to have beer and hot dogs at the second annual Ford Fest. Last year’s party fell during mayor Rob Ford’s election campaign; this year, however, promises more partying for partying’s sake and less rallying around the small-c conservative flagpole. Earlier this week, rumour had it that Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak wasn’t on the guest list, but Toronto Star reporter David Rider confirmed that Hudak will indeed be attending the festivities. Now that Ford has met with Dalton McGuinty and, this afternoon, NDP leader Andrea Horwath, that leaves just Hudak for Ford to corner by the kiddie pool and shake down ask for some subway money.

Thousands to party with the Fords [Toronto Sun]

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People

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More legal troubles for the Black family: Jonathan Black facing harassment charges 

As if the family of Conrad Black didn’t have enough to deal with, Conrad’s son Jonathan Black is now facing criminal charges for harassing and threatening his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. Taking a page from the old man’s book, Black Junior says he’s completely innocent and only being prosecuted because of his public position. While we admire the loyalty to his father—and his tactics—we sure hope Jonathan’s got a better legal defence than that. Conrad’s legal strategy of “screw the court, I’m Conrad Black” didn’t keep him out of jail, nor did it get him out early. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »