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Don’t Read and Drive: Unless You’re Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto

Reading and driving: Toronto’s mayor multitasks.

Toronto mayor Rob Ford is in the middle of a torrid scandal. Sex scandal? No. Embezzling? No. Drinking and driving? Close, but no.

Ford’s crime is reading and driving. You read that right. A twitter user posted a photo of what appears to be Rob Ford, driving in 70km/hour traffic on the Gardiner Expressway, with his eyes on a stack of papers in his hand.

When questioned about the veracity of the photograph, Ford shrugged it off, commenting “Yeah, probably. I’m busy,” and adding an aside about being asked ridiculous questions.

According to police and traffic services, reading while driving is not a criminal offense on its own, though if it was proven to contribute to an accident, charges could then come into play. However, there is largely no disagreement that his actions constitute a very bad idea (not to mention criminally irresponsible), and the incident has resulted in people coming out of the woodwork to urge Ford to get a private driver, as all evidence points to the need for one.

Reading on the road is not unique to Ford, as my colleague Richard reported yesterday on the Pages and Proofs blog after his holiday:

….but at least the lady enjoying her book on the back of the speeding motorcycle is not the one operating the vehicle.

The Ford family is certainly no stranger to scandals around reading: In July of 2011, Toronto city councillor Doug Ford (also advisor to Toronto mayor Rob Ford – his brother) found himself surrounded by indignant Canadian literary types after he sparked a controversy with remarks he made about Margaret Atwood, arguably Canada’s most famous and celebrated living author. Atwood had been actively campaigning via twitter and other media to ask people to sign a petition protesting proposed budget cuts to library funding.

Clearly not the library systems’s biggest supporter (Ford had been previously quoted complaining that Toronto had an excess of libraries – more libraries than Tim Hortons*), Ford remarked (as reported by the Toronto Star):

“Well good luck to Margaret Atwood. I don’t even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is. She’s not down here, she’s not dealing with the problem. Tell her to go run in the next election and get democratically elected. And we’d be more than happy to sit down and listen to Margaret Atwood.”

Atwood and Doug Ford did eventually meet in September 2011, at a farewell party for Mayor (Rob) Ford’s arts advisor. So Ford certainly knows what Atwood looks like now – and will recognize her next time she shows up as a champion face of Canada’s libraries.

*He’s wrong, by the way – according to ourpubliclibrary.org, in Etobicoke, the Toronto area where Ford resides, there are 13 library branches, and 39 Tim Hortons’ locations.

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