What does the Rob Ford video tell us?

It confirms our understanding of a man who was on a highway to hell, but it is knowledge that comes too late
Mayor Rob Ford pauses while participating in a mayoral debate in Toronto on Tuesday, July 15, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
Darren Calabrese/CP
Darren Calabrese/CP

When his officers finally found it, sending Toronto into full-scale upheaval, then-police chief Bill Blair declared himself “disappointed” by the scenes in the Rob Ford crack video. He didn’t describe them, and the courts were customarily intent on keeping the clip under wraps, lest its publication prejudice the extortion trial of Ford’s former driver, Sandro Lisi. But that mild reaction on the part of the city’s police chief was enough to draw rebuke from Doug Ford, then a Toronto councillor, who suggested Blair was using his position to wage political warfare against his brother, then the city’s beleaguered mayor.

On Thursday, after the charges against Lisi were dropped, the video was available for all to see, and “disappointed” seems a fitting response. Three years ago, recall, the Toronto Star had reported that Ford could be seen in the clip using racially offensive language and calling Justin Trudeau, then the federal Liberal leader, a “fag.” In fact, it’s hard to hear Ford saying anything on the video. The foul commentary that is audible comes mostly from the regrettable Elena Basso, Ford’s friend and the presumptive host of the impromptu party, where—yes—Rob Ford can be seen pulling on a crack pipe. He is clearly no stranger to the process. His lolling head and glassy eyes remove all doubt that he’s high.

Which tells us what? As others have noted, had the video been released when it was discovered, its publication might have made some difference to Ford. Today, it merely solidifies our understanding of him as a man on a highway to hell (what threat its release posed to Lisi’s legal rights, only the courts know; he doesn’t even appear in it). But that knowledge came to us too late, and the world has moved on. Lisi is a free man. Doug Ford is out of office. Bill Blair is now an MP in the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau—overseeing federal plans to legalize cannabis. In March, Rob Ford died of cancer.

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