February 28th Commentary
Slowly but surely the windchill warnings that blanketed the entire southern half of the province last night are being lifted.
The area is now much smaller...from Hamilton to Peterborough, north to Dufferin and Innisfill. That includes all communities within the Greater Toronto Area.
The threshold for a wind chill warning is minus 30. Here in Toronto we have no reached that yet but it's still possible over the next couple of hours. The winds are not nearly as bad as they were yesterday and we can expect a mix of sun and cloud which could push the temperature up to a high of minus 10. Normal is 2.
The blood is barely dry in the streets of Kiev from that massacre last week and now we seem to be staring at the prospect of bloodshed in Crimea. This is part of Ukraine. The Soviet Union handed it over in 1954 but most of the people living in Crimea are Russian. The Russian navy has a huge base there. This is the part of the country that wants a cozy relationship with Moscow while the rest of Ukraine is recoiling trying to line up with the European Union.
There's a growing fear the nation will fracture and Crimea is the fault line. When the speaker of the Crimean Parliament went outside this morning to speak to pro-Russian demonstrators he told them there will be a referendum on breaking away from Ukraine. The crowd cheered wildly.
The last few days in the saga of Rob and Doug Ford have been extraordinary and bizarre. In my view we are watching the human equivalent of two rats cornered, fighting for their political lives, ready to attack anything that moves.
I can't help but feel that Robbie and Dougie have concluded below-the-belt politics is the only way Robbie stands any chance of being reelected and they don't give a damn who they crucify along the way. Think about it. Rob Ford has so demeaned the office of the Mayor, why not crap all over the office of the Police Chief, challenge the integrity of the Police Services Board? Throw dirt everywhere.
Having said that, Chief Bill Blair should have never reacted to the Ford crack video by saying he was disappointed. That was not his place to say anything like that.
For the chief to be disgusted by Rob Ford calling Blair a vulgar name, that was fair game because it was a direct shot at the Chief. For Rob Ford to claim he said it in a private setting with friends is b.s. A restaurant that was open to the public at the time, Ford standing right at the counter, is hardly a private setting so don't get sucked into that bizarre rationale.
Now to the Ford allegations about a conflict of interest....Chief Blair going on a fishing trip with Andy Pringle of the Police Services Board, one of the Blair's civilian overlords. There are things Doug and Rob Ford conveniently ignore. It was the Mayor who put Andy Pringle on the Police Services Board. When the Mayor's staff were vetting candidates, it was Doug Ford who pushed to get Pringle on the board. Pringle is a long time Progressive Conservative, a fundraiser, a failed provincial candidate when John Tory was Ontario PC leader and subsequently a senior aide in the Office of the Opposition leader...the said John Tory.
As for the fishing trip, the well-off Pringle is a member of a salmon fishing camp on the Keswick River in New Brunswick and he invited Chief Blair to go with him soon after Pringle joined the Police Board. As Blair's media guy Mark Pugash explained it: Chief Blair drove and paid for the gas. Pringle picked up the accommodation cost. Pringle insists that he ran all of this by the chairman of the police board Alok Mukarjee ahead of time and he saw nothing wrong. Pringle mentioned it to other board members and they didn't raise any red flags either. As an aside, the Globe and Mail report on this last November pointed out that the chair of the board, Mukarjee actually took Chief Blair with him and paid his way on a trip to India a year earlier. To be sure, the optics are not good and I would hope there is directive that in future no police officer from the Chief down should be going anywhere with a member of the Police Services Board where one is picking up the tab but does anyone in their right mind think that Andy Pringle, the man Doug and Rob Ford and their mother all campaigned door-to-door for when he sought political office in 07 is somehow in a grand conspiracy with the Chief of Police and that somehow John Tory is part of this conspiracy over the last few years long before the crack video surfaced? This is way too sophisticated even for these smart guys.
And finally Rob Ford's drivel about the cost of the police investigation. The notion that Chief Blair wasted taxpayers money on a private crusade against the Ford's is preposterous. The crack video story broke and that triggered an investigation to see if a crime had been committed. Evidence mounted. The investigation expanded. Police probes go wherever they lead and so far this one has led us to where we are today....in one hell of a mess, largely of Rob Ford's own making.
However, the animose between Ford and Blair has now reached a level that it is time for intervention either by the Toronto Police Services board or the Ontario Government. To maintain the integrity of the criminal investigation of the mayor, it's time for the Police Chief to step away from the case. Let the OPP take the lead but keep all of the Toronto police investigators on it...simply second our detectives to the OPP and give oversight to the OPP Commissioner.