A quick rant, and I will elaborate later….the work day beckons.
I was surprised, impressed, and bemused yesterday when Jason Kenney apparently went off-message for the second time in less than a month and called on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to resign. When the federal Minister of Employment — the guy whose job it is to encourage people to work — tells you to quit your job, it’s a sign.
“As an elected official, I think that Mr. Ford has brought dishonour to public office, the office of mayor, and his city,” Kenney told a scrum outside the House of Commons. “I wish he had taken a leave of absence some time ago to go and deal with his personal problems. But not having done that, I personally think he should step aside and stop dragging the City of Toronto through this, through this terrible embarrassment.”
With those words, Kenney became the first cabinet member in the Harper Government to call for Ford’s resignation. Even more impressive, Kenney did it without lamely trying to tie the flaming wreckage of the Rob Ford Circus to Justin Trudeau’s admission that he’s smoked a little weed. Neither Justice Minister Peter MacKay nor the Prime Minister’s Office have been about to rouse themselves to say much at all that directly connects Ford with his own bad behaviour. But what little they have said about it also invoked the name of Justin Trudeau and some Reefer Madness.
I wish I’d kept this around, but as someone commented on the Toronto Star’s website a few days ago, “Smoking crack is to smoking pot as doing 180 km/h thru a school zone is to getting a ticket for illegal parking.”
So…telling Rob Ford, a longtime ally of the federal Conservatives and a fishing buddy of the Prime Minister, to resign…and not taking the opportunity to engage in the de rigeur drive-by slagging of the feared and hated leader of the third party in the same breath? Something’s gotta be up, right?
Well, it could be that Jason Kenney was just doing the right thing. And indeed, he did that, even if he had an ulterior motive. It’s about bloody time that someone in a position of authority in this allegedly principled, take-personal-responsibility, tough-on-crime government addressed the Rob Ford issue head on.
As for ulterior motives, it might be that Kenney’s well-known leadership ambitions are showing. He pretty much contradicted the boss at the Conservative Convention in Calgary when he went to the defence of Harper’s former chief-of-staff, Nigel “The Cheque-Writer” Wright. Remember that Harper was, at the time, making new plans for Nigel, crafting a new narrative about the guy the PM used to say “acted alone” in writing that $90,000 cheque to cover Mike Duffy’s expenses. Suddenly the story was that Nigel Wright was the architect of the deception around the whole cheque writing business. Kenney cast doubt on that version of events when he said Wright was “an extraordinarily capable man with high ethical principles”. Saying that about the guy the PM had just finished throwing under the bus was widely interpreted as a sign that Kenney was distinguishing himself from Harper for when the time comes for a leadership bid. The comments about Ford could be more of the same.
Of course, there is another possibility. With the Ford comments, maybe Kenney wasn’t going off-message at all. Maybe Rob Ford has become such a political liability to the Harper Conservatives that they finally had to address the issue head-on. But, fearing a backlash from Ford Nation — the same people they rely on for votes in suburban Toronto — Harper needed someone a little more arm’s-length from the Ford family. Someone with his own strong network of supporters in and around the GTA. Jason Kenney would fit that bill.