Mayor Ford in good spirit, says secretary

August 9, 2012 - News

Mayor Rob Ford was hospitalized as a result of stomach and throat “irritation” that aggravated his asthma, his spokesperson said Wednesday.
Ford was admitted to Humber River Regional Hospital on Tuesday night. A statement Wednesday afternoon said he is “in good spirits” and “looking forward to going home as soon as doctors allow.” The statement did not indicate when he might be discharged.
The mayor’s policy director, Mark Towhey, sought to demonstrate that the mayor is able and willing to work from his hospital bed.
“Just met with @TOMayorFord to brief some files. Looks good, in good spirits. Thanks Toronto for your support!” he wrote on Twitter.
Soon after, Ford’s press secretary, George Christopoulos, tweeted a picture of the mayor, sitting up in his hospital bed looking over a package of papers.
“Toronto Mayor Rob Ford taking care of business,” the tweet said.
As Christopoulos left hospital around 8 p.m. Wednesday, he said the mayor would likely be “kept overnight as a precautionary measure, and we’re going to take it day by day.” He said Ford was doing “fine,” but didn’t offer any more details.
Ford originally believed he had been sickened by food he ate. He missed a Tuesday morning news conference heralding one of his key achievements, the privatization of garbage collection between Yonge St. and the Humber River.
The mayor underwent “a number of routine tests,” the statement said.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, the conservative pre-amalgamation mayor of Etobicoke, can temporarily step in for Ford if the mayor is unable to immediately return to work. With a minor exception, the deputy mayor has the same powers as the mayor.
But the pace of work at City Hall slows to a crawl in August as councillors take vacations. No major meetings are scheduled until Sept. 10. The next meeting of the whole council begins on Oct. 2.
“The good thing now is it’s a slower period,” said Councillor Michael Thompson, a Ford ally. “I don’t see it as being a big problem.”
Ford, Thompson said, can still do his work from his hospital bed as long as he can use a phone and sign papers.
“I don’t know that the mayor is so ill that he can’t pick up the phone and have a conversation,” he said. “If he’s able to be on the phone to speak to folks, that allows him to do his job.”
Ford, who was hospitalized briefly with a kidney stone in February, cited a concern about his health as one of the reasons he launched the “Cut the Waist” weight loss campaign in January. “I’ve got young children, and this is not healthy. You can’t be running the city, you can’t be doing all this, at 330 pounds,” he said upon its launch.
While the mayor has talked openly about his health, city councillors and experts said Wednesday pressure should not be placed on the city’s chief magistrate to disclose medical details.
Reporters camped outside the hospital during the day Wednesday waiting for news on his condition.
“Even public figures have private lives,” said Councillor Norm Kelly, who sits on Ford’s executive committee.
Kelly and other councillors across the political spectrum — such as left-leaning Kristyn Wong-Tam and centrist Josh Matlow — said Ford’s health should only be of public concern if it interferes with his ability to govern.
“(If) council or the public have any reason to believe that an elected politician is not fulfilling their responsibilities then it is fair to ask questions,” said Matlow. “To start raising the question after one visit to the hospital, I think it’s sensationalizing the issue and it’s unfair to him.”
Just how much information about their health public figures ought to disclose is up for debate.
In 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, then running for office, was treated in an Ottawa emergency room for what was first described as an asthma attack and later a chest cold. The visit was initially reported because a journalist was tipped off by a citizen.
“He went to see a doctor, the same as you or I do,” Harper’s communications director, William Stairs, told the Ottawa Citizen after the news broke. “From there, to getting into detail, we’re in uncharted water here.”
Traditionally, Canadian public figures have been afforded more privacy than their American counterparts. U.S. President Barack Obama makes public the details of his annual check up.
“The president of the United States is the leader of the free world,” Robert Logan, a former colleague of media guru Marshall McLuhan and professor emeritus of physics at the University of Toronto, points out.
When Jack Layton announced last July that he had a “new non-prostate cancer” that would require further treatment, he faced criticisms from those who felt he should have told the Canadian people what kind of cancer he was fighting, as well as his treatment and prognosis.
— Torstar News Service