It is truly amazing just how much of an international media frenzy has been generated by the bonkers mayor of Toronto.
As long as Rob Ford’s crack smoking was merely an allegation based on a mysterious homemade video, his vehement denials kept the story fairly localized.
However, once the first of several damaging videos went public and Ford confessed to trying crack while wasted, the saga generated international attention.
For Canadians, it was a bit of an emotional dilemma when U.S. late-night comedians began having a field day pillorying Ford’s wacky behaviour and muddled attempts to clear his name.
On the one hand, Canada was actually getting noticed by mainstream American media, but, in this instance, it was for the fact that Ford was behaving in a spectacularly un-Canadian fashion.
According to our self-satisfying folklore, Canadians are the quiet, responsible ones, while our southern cousins are the brash and brassy neighbours.
To see David Letterman and Jon Stewart weighing in on Ford had some Canadian pundits decrying the mayor’s buffoonery as a national shame.
In other words, the antics of one city’s top elected official somehow reflects badly upon, not only voters in Toronto but all 34 million Canadians, many of whom had never even heard of Ford before his public meltdown.
On the flip side of this has been the media treatment of what is truly a major international story.
Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms in recorded history, devastated the Philippines on Nov. 8. The extreme winds flattened buildings, destroyed infrastructure and killed at least 4,000.
While there has been coverage in the media, most of the stories and analysis have been muscled to the back pages by the daily updates on the Ford train wreck.
Canada’s response to the tragedy in the Philippines is actually a good news story. While I would be among the first to criticize the government for unpreparedness, in this instance I believe full credit should be given where is it due.
An advance reconnaissance team was en route to Manila aboard a Royal Canadian Air Force Challenger jet by Sunday, just two days after the typhoon struck. On Monday, the first Disaster Assistance Response Team deployed from CFB Trenton aboard a CC-177 Globemaster III transport aircraft.
The massive cargo capacity of the CC-177 allowed DART to deploy a mobile command post, an ambulance, a forklift, a water purification system capable of producing 50,000 litres of potable water a day, shelters, tools and 43 Canadian Forces personnel.
Following close on their heels, Canada dispatched a second DART unit aboard another CC-177 last Wednesday. By Saturday, more than 100 Canadian military specialists were on the ground in the Philippines.
For those unfamiliar with DART, the concept was first initiated back in 1996, largely as a public relations exercise to restore the military’s image following the damaging Somalia scandal.
While it has the designation of a team, it draws its members from across the Forces. Medical personnel, engineers and logistic cadre are nominally assigned the secondary duty of a DART responder.
While there is a permanent command centre for DART in Trenton, in the wake of any crisis, the composition of the team is determined and then assembled.
The fact that in this instance Canada could mount such a credible response so quickly is a testament to just how efficient DART has become.
One has to also credit the availability of the CC-177s as a major contribution to the international response. Prior to acquiring four Globemaster III aircraft in 2007, Canada possessed no strategic airlift capability.
To fill the void, the Royal Canadian Air Force made due with the limited capability of an aging fleet of CC-130 Hercules tactical-lift cargo planes or rented Russian Antonov transport aircraft.
This limitation led to national embarrassment in September 1999 when it took our old Hercules aircraft four tries to get to East Timor, when another aging Hercules was stranded in Fiji for 11 days waiting the delivery of two bolts.
With a new fleet of 17 CC-130J Hercules planes, four new CC-177 heavy cargo planes and an experienced DART, the Canadian Forces have truly become a world-class relief provider.
More Canadians should take pride in a national institution serving our interests abroad, than feeling ashamed of a mayor behaving badly in Toronto.