11.19.2013 07:00 AM

In Tuesday’s Sun: the Maple Leafs Syndrome

It’s the Toronto Maple Leafs Syndrome. Applies to sports as well as politics.

The Maple Leafs, as you may have heard, are a hockey team.

They have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967. That was the year the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Rolling Stone magazine started publishing and movie tickets were about the same as the minimum wage — just under a buck-50.

So, think about that: The Toronto Maple Leafs — one of the most profitable franchises in professional sports — won the Stanley Cup for the last time in 1967. Nearly a half century ago.

In Montreal (where I was born), in Calgary (where I grew up), and in Vancouver (where I took leave of my senses and made an ill-fated run for Parliament), this is what would happen if the Habs, the Flames or the Canucks were shut out for nearly 50 years — there would be riots.

There would be unrest. There would be revolution.

In Toronto? Nothing happens. No one cares.

Mild-mannered, mid-level executives in the financial services shrug. Well-appointed corporate executives check their Rolexes and yawn. (None of them are paying for the tickets anyway.) In the memorable phrasing of Stephen Harper (who loves the Leafs, by the by), they couldn’t care less.

That, in a roundabout way, explains why Torontonians don’t rise up, en masse, and surround City Hall. And then tie “Mayor” Rob Ford to one of the subway cars he professes to love so much, and drag him out to Etobicoke, the Toronto suburb that inflicted him on us in the first place.

In any other city in Canada, Rob Ford would be hanged, drawn and quartered (and, in his case, quartered and quartered again). He’d be tarred and feathered, and run out of town.

He would be reviled by children, and cursed by church-going grandmothers.

He would be — in any other city, where sanity still matters — dreaming about how Don Cherry used to refer to him as a friend.

Not in Toronto. No, sir.

In Toronto, to the amazement of those who are passing through (like me), people still pose to get their picture taken with Rob Ford.

At a protest to demand his ouster — which I attended, my first protest since my salad days — the biggest applause was reserved for a comedian, who told the good-humoured crowd that Rob Ford “is just like you.” No one seemed very angry, at all.

He may be a crackhead. He may drink and drive. He may give the finger to children and consort with drug dealers. He may push around people who are smaller than him and he may use gutter language to describe his wife. But Torontonians voted for him in droves in 2010 — and polls tell us that a significant number of city residents would do so again.

In these unique circumstances, residents of saner parts of the country — like Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver — might be moved to conclude the source of the Rob Ford problem isn’t, in fact, Rob Ford.

It’s the people who put him in office. It’s Torontonians themselves, afflicted as they are by Maple Leafs Syndrome.

In Toronto, you can put crap on the ice, year after year — you can put trailer park trash in charge of the city — and Torontonians will keep doing what they always do about things that are a joke, a farce, a source of bottomless shame.

Which is, mostly, nothing.


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    albertaD says:

    The line about trailer trash – so unfair to folks who live in trailers. I grew up in a trailer park, and all the trailer folk I knew growing up were hard-working decent people who would be horrified by Ford’s mess.

    We all know that the Fords grew up rich and entitled. If they had grown up in a trailer court they wold have a lot more class.

    Otherwise, excellent article. Nice appearance on Lilley last night… the one and only time I will watch Sun News.

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      frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      I agree…….I winced when I saw that……I know many fine people who by circumstance or simply by choice live in trailer parks……and the ones near me are nicely maintained and quite frankly, look very liveable.

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        Bill Templeman says:

        I cringed as well on this point…Warren, since when in Canada is economic class of origin a criterion for leadership selection? Hugh Segal and Chrietien both had humble beginnings. People live in trailer parks because they have to. Too many Liberals genuflect in the presence of an Upper Canada College / U of T / Harvard background, without checking for substance. Witness the sickening coronation of Ignatieff. Ford is a dangerous nutcase and should not be the leader of anything. And he is very far from a trailer park boy, But let’s leave the stereotypes out of it. Otherwise you become what you despise.

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          frmr disgruntled Con now happier Lib says:

          Well said Mr. Templeman….I guess Ill never escape me Red Tory roots…….

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        WestGuy says:

        It was probably a throw-away comment (trailer trash) but it that kind of attitude that Rob Ford used to get into power. He adopted a populist approach against the “elitist” leaders of Toronto. The whole gravy train thing obviously struck a chord with enough voters to get him elected. Ford is still using the anti-elitist rhetoric now and it may still be striking that same chord. I agree, the use of “trailer trash” was a poor choice. All that kind of stuff does is give Ford more “told you so” ammunition.

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          Geoffrey L. says:

          I still don’t get what is so “average” about Rob Ford and his $100 million per year business. If that doesn’t make him “Toronto Elite” then what does?

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    Warren's Best Friend says:

    I realize this is nitpicking, but for the record the Canucks have never won a Stanley Cup, and the franchise been in existence since 1970 – three years after the Leafs won the Cup. I guess that would explain the 2011 riots…

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      Matt says:

      Then what about the 94 riot? 🙂

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    Paul Radcliffe says:

    Democracy is never wrong. The people get the government they deserve, for better or for worse…

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      sezme says:

      That’s really only true in cases of unanimity. Most of the time, all of us get the government that 30% of us deserve.

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        Paul says:

        That is a function of voter apathy which leads to low voter turnout (something like 60%. in Canada if I’m not mistaken.) IT is the mark of sore loser when people start blaming “the system” for their side’s failure to capture the interest of the electorate. It’s funny how I don’t seem to recall this ever coming up during the Liberal’s tenure in government.

        In Australia, where voting is mandatory, they just elected a “right-wing” government and turfed out the previous carbon-taxing regime. Voter turnout was in the 90% range. The people have spoken.

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          sezme says:

          Whether voter turnout is high or low, I don’t believe that just because we need to suffer the tyranny of the majority that we somehow deserve what we got. It’s the verb “deserve” that gets me. “Have to put up with” is more like it. In cases where the leader has shown willful disrespect for the rules of government as Rob Ford has repeatedly, I maintain that he or she has lost the reciprocal respect of the electorate and the expectation to be put up with.

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    Matt says:

    I just get the feeling his opponents are going to far. Stay with me:

    Part of what brought Ford to the mayors office was the fact he wasn’t one of the “beautiful people”, he isn’t part of the “elite”

    Wanting to run to Premier mom to remove him, stripping him of his powers, self appointed elites having clandestine meetings amongst themselves to pick the candidate THEY want to replace Ford (as a group pimping John Tory did last week).

    This kind of stuff COULD backfire. There is a possibility, however slim, it pushes people back into Ford’s camp.

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      doconnor says:

      “self appointed elites having clandestine meetings amongst themselves to pick the candidate THEY want to replace Ford”

      This could be fixed either by implementing a party system where members would nominate candidates and/or with a form of STV or PR where people don’t have to deal with vote splitting.

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      Patrick Deberg says:


      not true. Indeed he’s not one of the beautiful people. But he is one of the elite. I hate this turd being repolished over and over again. The Conservatives of Canada desperately need this idea that they are the party of the little people to be swallowed by the little people. Very few of these conservative ” elites” have had a real job, or had to work for a penny they had gifted from their family. But yet always the hue and cry about how they came from nothing. Progressives more than hard core righties actually worked for there place in life. That’s why the progressives tend to keep their mouths shut. they had to compromise somewhere along the way and had real painful decisions to make. These rich frat boys never had to do anything yet always the self righteous outrage directed at everyone that sees through the bull. Rob might be a great guy when he’s off the bong and bottle but he’s not fit to run a Shithouse. Everyone is studiously trying to avoid removing him from office but he’s to stupid to see that. The cons tried for years to paint the liberals as living with a huge sense of entitlement but Robby puts the boots to the fact that no one in the world feels he more entitled to the gravy train that this drunken loser and his nation of assholes that have more than everyone on the planet but still feel hard done by. Why don’t these losers go out and find something to occupy their time instead of bullying old grandmothers?.

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      JH says:

      The Conservatives started out doing that to Trudeau with the first attack ad etc. and many more folks were drawn to him by curiosity and the fact that he was a target of the governing ‘elite’.
      Nowadays the Tories are mostly content to forgo them. The result is much less frenzy.
      As they are always though, the media is quite prepared to rip him for a headline. JT should be very wary.

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      smelter rat says:

      FFS, the Ford bro’s are suburban millionaires who’ve never done anything more than sell drugs and bully people since childhood. They are as elite as it gets.

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      patrick says:

      True Rob isn’t one of the “beautiful people”. He is a fat, ugly, dumb, obnoxious, ignorant slob (and I would say that 90% of that comes from his interior life and not exterior presentation). But beauty has nothing to do with being part of the “elite” which the two Fords have been part of since birth, being born into a multi millionaire, politically connected family. The Fords are the elite. This doesn’t mean competence or intelligence. For the Fords it’s just a fortune of birth.

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      Matt says:

      Allow me to clarify the use of the word “elite”

      I meant it in the educational, political, social, and geographical sense.

      He didn’t go to a fancy university.

      He doesn’t belong to the “political class”, he’s not a part of the, as they say, “the progressives”

      He not the latte sipping, poetry slam attending, red carpet walking kind. He doesn’t attend the right kind of events.

      I meant it in the albeit stereotypical, downtown elite kind of thing, while Rob is a suburbs kind of person.

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        VC says:

        He is actually very much part of a political class and continues a family legacy of it. He’s surrounded and lauded over by his political class that went to Harvard and Princeton (Jim Flaherty?). And Ford’s “right kind of events” are alcohol-fueled visits to crack houses; it’s difficult to make it to charity events when you are in a drunken stupor. In comparison to my modest upbringings, Ford’s family is far and away elitist. I didn’t have a father with a multi-million dollar company and my inheritance is such that I have the luxury to donate all my $100,000 salary (as Dougie said he would). That’s an established elite that enjoys remarkable privilege. So let’s just deal with this canard that everyone else is an elite and the Ford’s are everyday people: they are not. Everyday people do not have the privilege, luxuries and political influence that the Ford family has; they work long hours and live hand to mouth in many cases.

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        Adam says:

        “He doesn’t belong to the “political class” ”

        I recognize that you are speaking in stereotypes, but do notice that these stereotypes are useless and are quite deliberately set up to grant “elite” Conservatives “non-elite” status. It is a pernicious stereotype which is of no use whatsoever for any analysis.

        Ford is not part of the political class? Ford’s father was a politician, and he is good friends with the finance minister. That makes him most def. a part of the political class, for more so than Wynne. As for residences, according to Wikipedia, “as an indication of the family’s wealth, the success of the family business allowed the family to build a six-bedroom home in Etobicoke, which has a swimming pool and gardens that can host nearly a thousand visitors.” In what planet is that non-elite, and somebody renting an apartment downtown “elite.”

        Does Ford not drink latte? Everybody drinks latte, Matt! That particular stereotype is about 30 years out of date.

        He went to Carleton University but didn’t graduate I believe. I went to the University of Alberta and did. I believe that Wynne went to Queen’s and UofToronto and graduated. I believe that the Deputy mayor went to Western and graduated. The finance minister, I believe, went to Princeton (which is pretty fancy), while the Prime Minister went to UofCalgary. You know what the difference is there? The difference between me and Rob Ford is that I, coming from a family that wasn’t vastly wealthy, graduated from a public university in Canada, and Ford, despite a father who paid his bills, could not make it through Carleton. My brother-in-law dropped out of university to go into a trade, more power to him. Ford dropped out knowing that the family fortune would keep him comfortable regardless. Very definition of elite.

        Poetry slams are a whole lot cheaper than crack and hockey tickets, and, on the whole, people who go to poetry slams are not people who participate in red-carpet events. I have gone to poetry readings and can confirm that some of them live in trailers. How does attending a poetry slam even appear in the same category as red-carpet events?

        Basically, you are defining “people who think about things” as elites, and taking money completely out of the equation. This is an inherently right-wing stereotype, which must be rejected.

        I actually agree with everything that Warren says above, but join the other commentators in disliking his slur against people who live in trailers. If Rob Ford had grown up in a trailer, he would have had to learn some respect. It is because he grew up with wealth that he could live without learning manners. He boorishness is a feature of his elite status.

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          Matt says:

          I thought Ford’s father was a one term PC MPP in Ontario under Harris.

          Am I mistaken?

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            Kaspar Juul says:

            No you’re just arguing semantics.

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    Matt says:

    Does Adam Vaughan creep anyone else out? There’s just something about that guy that makes me want to throw a brick through the tv when he’s on.

    Side story:

    I was at a friends house last night and Vaughan came on spewing his usual self serving nonsense. I looked at my buddy and said “That dips**t is going to run for mayor”

    My friends dad, a 35 year veteran of the Toronto Police says “With his past? No chance in hell”

    So I asked him to elaborate. All he would say is “Vaughan has enough skeletons in his closet to fill the ACC (Air Canada Centre)”

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      Kaspar Juul says:

      Anecdotal: impossible to prove whether side story happened or not. For all we know you had a conversation about rainbow unicorns with a talking duck at chuck e cheese

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      VC says:

      Your reactions seem to be a bit misdirected. I would temper them with what Rob Ford has been up to. When you find out what Ford has done, you’ll have forgotton about Adam Vaughan entirely.

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      W the K - No, not Warren says:

      So let me get this straight. Apropos to nothing you bring up Adam Vaughan. He creeps you out. And, for no particular reason, he makes you want to break things. You call him disparaging names. You think he’s going to run for mayor. You know cops who say he’s … done things. I’m still wondering what you’re implying in the last two paragraphs.

      And you find Adam Vaughan creepy?

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    Paul says:

    many many people and cities do not engage in the political process..I hate excuses you get.. wont matter , they are all the same …all I know is a big chunkl of my hard earned money goes to HSt, GST, Income taxes fed , prov, property tax, kids facility rentals, liquor taxes, gas taxes – I like having a say about how its spent and trying to hold folks to account…and many others do to …its important – I call it preventative controls – do you think the bruhaha over senate spending had anything to do with the thousands less spent by all senators since the scandal broke … get involved folks ..

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      david ray says:

      sorry Paul but the only people who have a say are those that control the money that controls the gun. Unless someone figures a new way of distributing wealth nothing will change.

      from the day you’re born
      till the day you die
      a man with a gun
      will tell you why
      you need to jump
      and just how high
      now hands up
      and reach for the sky.

      spur of the moment bad poetry but that’s the way I see it. EG Harper controls the money and therefore controls the gun and in the case of Toronto and the G20 he unleashed 6000 of them and look how that turned out. Seen or heard any real dissent since then. Remember Warren’s bandmate and his run-in with that asshole of assholes Officer Bubbles?
      I don’t know how or when it will ever change but if it does it won’t ever begin in Toronto.

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    sezme says:

    Well, in defence of the city saddled with the Maple Oafs, we haven’t had this much entertainment in years.

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    Sean says:

    I think most of Ford’s success was due to the right being united and the left being divided. His timing was perfect because David Miller set everything up perfectly. From what I’ve been watching, the right looks very divided or at least will not be supporting him as the candidate and the left understands they really can’t mess around this time.

    Also, I think part of the odd political culture we see in Toronto is due to the city being fairly new. It is a city arbitrarily created from aligning several disjointed cities. It will take time for the greater population to develop coherent sentiments / alliances to move forward.

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    Tiger says:

    Is insulting the Leafs really the way to go after Ford Nation?

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      Warren says:

      I write what I think. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

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        LEAFS NATION says:

        Absolutely disgraceful that you would say people should incite a riot to show they care about a city,to tie a person to a subway car and drag them around is very disturbing.hanging and tarring and feathering what century are you living in.I’m ashamed at the editor of the standard for allowing such an article,to allow a person to say acting with violence is the best way to handle problems.With all the talk of bullying in schools and in the workplace we now have to read this as warren would say crap in the standard.With the mindset you have i pray you don’t have children.I do agree with your last comment though,if you don’t like it don’t read it,as of tomorrow i cancel my subscription to the standard after 30 years and i will be sending this letter to the editor.I take it your a habs fan,that would explain alot,and i do mean alot.

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    Chris Blackmere says:

    How can any mayor be held responsible for the lousy track record of a publicly traded corporation in her jurisdiction?

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    Iris Mclean says:

    Slightly off topic, but given the ongoing police investigation, and his public admission of smoking (lots of) weed, and consuming crack cocaine, is Mayor Ford still allowed to enter the USA?

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    Mulletaur says:

    It’s a bit strong claiming the Leafs to be a ‘hockey team’, isn’t it ?

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    debs says:

    Rob Ford has allowed for some of the best comedic genius to be created…in generations…thats all the good anyone can say about him.

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