Toronto Mayor Rob Ford spent two days in Chicago, and nobody noticed. The controversial Canadian mayor’s trade visit, which coincided with the end of our city’s first teacher strike in 25 years, was huge news in Canada.
Here, it didn’t make the Tribune or the Sun-Times. Maybe that’s because, as I found out when I wrote a Great Lakes travelogue, Americans don’t want to read about Canada. Or maybe it’s because Ford didn’t look at all like a foreigner in Chicago. Although the Toronto Sun portrayed him as Jake Blues, he actually looks more like Jim Belushi’s brother-in-law on According to Jim than John Belushi. And he has the personality of Saturday Night Live motivational speaker Matt Foley. Ford is so loud and obese it wouldn’t have been surprising if he’d applied for asylum in the United States.
More on that in a moment. After taking a boat tour of downtown Chicago, Ford had a private half-hour meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. They talked about the two cities’ business relationships, as well as garbage pickup, an unglamorous housekeeping task of mayors everywhere. They also discussed labor issues, or labour issues, if you're reading this in Canada. Ford recently signed a four-year deal with his city’s workers.
“I’ve been up to Toronto a great deal, and I’m proud that we are going to renew our sister city relationship,” Emanuel said at a press conference after the meeting. “The similarities are not just in the business community or in our geography. Chicago is the most American of American cities.”
And Toronto is the most American of Canadian cities. It has franchises in the NBA, Major League Baseball and MLS, and now hosts a Buffalo Bills game each year. It’s ethnically diverse, with large immigrant populations from the Caribbean and Asia. And if you’re a Canadian who wants to make it big in business or see your name in lights -- two American traits -- you go to Toronto. Emanuel acknowledged that Toronto is in Chicago’s league as an international city.
“Today, the economies that are being driven are being driven by the 100 most dynamic cities that have the energy, the culture, the business and the dynamism that people want to be a part of, and Toronto and Chicago are two of those cities in the top tier of the world,” he said.
(Maybe it was his Canadian accent, but at the press conference, Ford actually pronounced our city’s name correctly, as “Ch-caw-go.” Now, we have to learn to say “Chronno.”)
Now, more about Mayor Ford. Yesterday, Ward Room reported that Ford was removed from a Maple Leafs game for belligerently insulting rival fans. We have learned that he actually insulted Maple Leaf fans -- a small-town Ontario couple making a trip to the big city to see a hockey game. They were enjoying the game, too, until “a rather large gentleman sitting nearby” began ranting obnoxiously.
According to a letter of complaint written by the husband, the rather large gentleman turned his attention to the couple:
At one point he shouted the following question at my wife and I, “Do you want your little wife to go over to Iran and get raped and shot?” and continued on with other extremely asinine comments.
The gentleman continued to question me and I did my best to continue to ignore him. He was demanding to know what my political beliefs were and was rudely asking what my profession was.
At one point he questioned “are you a f***ing teacher? And continued with “what the f*** is it that you do?”
Soon after, Ford was led out of the Air Canada Centre by security guards. It was un-Canadian behavior, and produced in the husband this un-Canadian response: “Generally extremely calm by nature, I have been troubled with the following emotion toward Mr. Rob Ford. I am angry with him for the way he spoke to my wife and I.”
At least our mayor only talks to people like that in private.