Monday, March 3, 2014

'Positive elements' to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's infamy

TORONTO - Is Mayor Rob Ford’s crack-smoking infamy hurting the city on the world stage?

Councillor Michael Thompson — head of the city’s economic development committee — said Monday that he’s trying to keep selling the city globally despite the Ford scandal and trying to focus on any positives that may come out of the controversy.

“We want to turn this dime on its head in order to take from this the positive elements and attributes,” Thompson said. “They are hard to find, I know.

“There is nothing we can actually do about where we are ... how do we then transform this process in a way that helps us to tell our story?”

Ford gained international fame late last year after admitting to smoking crack cocaine while in a “drunken stupor.” The aftermath of the mayor’s admission has put the spotlight on Toronto for better or for worse and that global frenzy has been renewed given Ford’s trip to Hollywood this past weekend and his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday night.

But Thompson said despite the negative aspect of the attention, there are “positive elements.

“People are looking and paying attention to Toronto — that’s a positive thing although it has come from the negative aspects as it relates to the mayor,” he said.

He admitted he was “aghast” when he read news on the weekend that a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans on Friday night included a Rob Ford float complete with a statue of the mayor blowing smoke from a crack pipe.

“That’s not what you want to have promoting as Toronto’s essence or as the key attributes for our city but it is what it is,” Thompson said. “I have to work beyond that ... I’m not going to put my head in the sand and cry myself to sleep, I’m going to basically dust off all that I need to dust off and find a way to promote our city, talk positively about our city.”

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly described Ford as having “a celebrity-ness that has transcended his office” and worried it could hurt investment in the city.

“You know what I’m picking up for the first time in the last few weeks is a feeling in the business community that this may begin to impact on the decisions that people make about where they place their money,” Kelly said. “I hope that that is not the case.”
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