Politicians on crack

Entertainingly rampant speculation today about claims that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is on video smoking from a crack pipe:

Allegations that the mayor of Canada's largest city had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine surfaced in May. Two reporters with the Toronto Star and one from the U.S. website Gawker said they saw the video but did not obtain a copy. Police Chief Bill Blair told a news conference Thursday he was "disappointed" in Ford but said the video did not provide grounds to press charges against him.
Note in passing that Toronto is not Canada's capital city - that's Ottawa. Toronto is however by far the most populous Canadian city, with nearly 7M people in the Greater Toronto Area and 2.5M people in Toronto itself, nearly twice that of nearest rival Montreal. Mr. Ford is the most visible mayor in Canada, so this is why the story is getting so much airtime. As to the veracity of the story I have no idea, but I suspect Chief Blair is correct - even if it clearly shows someone who is indisputably Rob Ford smoking from something very much like a crack pipe, how can you show the smoke originated from an illegal substance?

I do wonder, though, whether this chasing of Ford is a door that other politicians really want to open. There are two arguments you could make against a politician taking illegal drugs; one is that they should obey the law as to do otherwise is to set a bad example to their citizens. The other is that imbibing such substances could impair their judgement and effectiveness in their roles. However, if this is really a concern, we should not wait for videos of our politicians toking or smoking to arise; instead, we should be conducting random drug tests. This is what we do for people conducting safety-related work (train operators, railway maintenance workers etc.) Why should politicians be immune? Turn up at City Hall with drug and alcohol testing kits, randomly select politicos and publish a list of detections - allowing the politicians a second test if they fail first time around. Of course, since impairment is a concern, we should cover alcohol in the tests - no more politico boozing before important votes.

I used to hang around with people who subsequently went into politics, and they were some of the most blatant weed consumers I've known. Most of them ended up on the red side of the benches. If politicians are to be kicked out of politics based on drug consumption, we'll have many fewer politicians. We should probably also start to look at those who report on politics, since they determine how political actions appear to the rest of us. Is this really what the people wailing about Rob Ford want to happen?

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