The Life & Times of Rob Ford, Former Controversial Mayor of Toronto (RIP)

Robert Bruce Ford aka Rob Ford was born on May 28, 1969 in Etobicoke, Ontario, and died on March 22, 2016 in Toronto.

He was a Canadian politician, and mayor of Toronto from 2010 to 2014.

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Origins and family life

Son of a millionaire boss of a sticker company, Rob Ford spent most of his adult life involved in politics.  His brother, Doug, is the current premiere of Ontario as of 2022

Three times, beginning in 2000, Rob was elected Alderman for the Etobicoke North Electoral District.

During his campaign for mayor, he faced candidates Joe Pantalone and George Smitherman.

The 383,501 votes in his favor allowed him to win a victory with 47.11% of the popular vote on October 25, 2010 .

His popularity was based in particular on his image of “everyday man, apparently accessible and close” to the people against a political class often “perceived as arrogant, hypocritical and self-satisfied” journalist Murtaza Hussain explained at the time.

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His positions in terms of urban transport and labor relations as well as with the media, in particular, have made him a criticized character.

Presenting himself as the “defender of the taxpayers”, he lead a policy of drastic reduction of public expenditure, in opposition to the controversial management of his predecessor at the town hall, the left-wing mayor David Miller.

He notably contributed to Stephen Harper ‘s victory in the 2011 federal election.

A decision by the Ontario Superior Court removed him from his position on November 26, 2012, after convicting him in a conflict of interest case, but this decision was reversed by the Court of Appeal on January 25, 2013.

On January 2, 2014, he officially submitted his candidacy for the next municipal election in Toronto, which were to be held on October 27, 2014, but, the following September 12, he withdrew from the race.

This was following the discovery of liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer. John Tory was elected to replace him.

He dies on March 22, 2016, following his cancer battle, in Toronto.  We will speak more on his death later in this article.

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Get yourself a Rob Ford sweatshirt right over here on Redbubble

Controversies

In the spring of 2013, his erratic behavior sparked rumors of drug abuse.

In May, journalists said they saw a video showing him smoking crack, which sparked intense media curiosity, including from Gawker, and journalistic research into his family’s history of drug trafficking.

In November 2013, Toronto Police Services confirm having recovered a video corresponding to the suspicions and a photo showing him in front of “a crack consumption place” in the company of three men, two of whom are part of a gang, and a third who will be killed in a shooting, is disclosed.

Subsequently, a new video shows him drunk and uttering death threats.

Rob Ford confessed and admitted to using crack while he was intoxicated. However, no charges were brought against him, and he refused to resign.

The scandal and the public indignation are amplified in front of the revelations which accumulated on his consumption of alcohol in the office and in the car, the bonuses granted to the members of his staff who support him, the arrival of a prostitute in his office, the sexual advances to his collaborators and the vulgarity of his language in press briefings.

On November 15, the city council stripped him of the right to manage his staff and undertook measures to strip him of his powers of governance.

Ford then threatens to appeal this decision to the courts.

Following his many scandals, Rob Ford became the laughing stock of many international television news, which gave negative visibility to the city of Toronto.

It is notably parodied in the American show Saturday Night Live, the November 16 , 2013 episode.

However, he retained a certain popularity with part of the conservative electorate, in particular thanks to his economic program (reduction of public expenditure and taxes), the choice of certain measures (privatization of garbage collection) and a form of verbal “authenticity”.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper maintained his support for Rob Ford, at the time.

In the municipal elections of October 27, 2014, his brother Doug was beaten by John Tory who succeeded Rob Ford as mayor of Toronto on December 1 of that year.

Rob Ford’s Drug Use

To understand Rob Ford’s drug use – specifically crack – we must go back to 2014, and the scandal that surrounded him at the time.

The throat knotted by emotion, Rob Ford gave a brief speech, hammering in passing that he would be a candidate for his own succession, in 2014, before leaving the room without answering questions.

Earlier on that fateful Tuesday morning, Mr Ford had admitted to smoking crack, after months of denials.

The mayor says he hid his drug use and therefore did not inform his family, staff and colleagues at city hall, because he was “embarrassed and ashamed”.

The mayor assured that these “mistakes” would “never happen again”.

On that Tuesday morning, Mr Ford told reporters at City Hall that he had tried the drug, ‘probably while (he) was drunk’. He assured not to be addicted to crack, but to have actually used it about a year ago.

“Yes, I smoked crack. But is this always the case? No. Am I addicted? No. Have I tried ‘that drug’? Probably during a time when I was drunk, probably about a year ago. I answered your question. Ask the question correctly, I will answer it,” he told reporters.

“Yes, I made mistakes, and all I can do is apologize and move on.”

Here’s the clip.

Mr Ford had been under enormous media and political pressure since May of 2014, after two outlets reported a video of the mayor appearing to smoke crack cocaine.

The previous week, the Toronto police chief announced that authorities had got hold of a video of the mayor, the footage of which matched media reports of possible crack use by Mr Ford.

“I happened to be drunk. That’s why I want to see the video. I want everyone to be able to see this video. I don’t remember there was a video, and I would like to see the state I was in then, and that’s it. I don’t know what else to say,” added the mayor.

Until that point, Mr. Ford denied using the drug, and implied that the video did not exist.

“I wasn’t lying, you didn’t ask me the right questions,” he told reporters, “I have made mistakes in the past, and I can only apologize to my family, friends, colleagues and the people of this great city.”

Here’s the clip…

According to legal experts, the mayor’s surprising admission exposed him to very little criminal prosecution, and therefore appeared to be just a strategy to arouse public sympathy.

Criminal lawyer James Lockyer believed the whole affair was “part of a cynical attempt” to manipulate public opinion.

“He play(ed) his cards very smart here,”

The mayor may have admitted to smoking crack cocaine, but the biggest problem was that this bombshell revelation lacked specific details, other experts pointed out.

Among other things, the police would have needed to be able to demonstrate that what he smoked was indeed crack cocaine. The authorities should’ve also known the approximate date of the deed, and even have known the location.

“He may (have) claim(ed) that this constitutes evidence, the police need more than that,” said criminal lawyer Mark Polley.

“You wouldn’t want to take a shot at this, with all the resources it would take.”

A spokesperson, at the time, said Toronto police would not comment on the mayor’s revelations.

What was still clear, observers said, was that Mr Ford followed his lawyer’s advice to the letter, even when he said how difficult and embarrassing it was to make his confession.

“His admission doesn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know, but it allow(ed) him to seek the sympathy of voters,” said Me Lockyer.

“What we have seen here (has been) a shrewd and highly cynical political strategy concocted by Mr. Ford and his inner circle, including a criminal lawyer who knows what he (was) doing.”

In addition, shortly before Mayor Ford’s confession, his brother launched a call on that fateful Tuesday morning for the temporary withdrawal of the Toronto police chief.

Councillor (now Premiere) Doug Ford had also asked the Toronto Police Oversight Committee to investigate the recovery of the video that allegedly showed Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, and the police chief’s handling of the case, Bill Blair.

Doug Ford told the media that Mr Blair should have left the office until an investigation was to be carried out by the police oversight committee, made up of civilians.

He claimed he had never come across such a biased police chief before, even going so far as to say Mr Blair acted as ‘judge and jury’ in the case.

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The Rob Ford Sit-in Protest at Toronto City Hall

There were many efforts to have Rob Ford removed from office while he was mayor.  In fact, a lengthy 24/7 peaceful sit-in protest was in effect for a substantial duration of time.

The following is from the “Rob Ford Must Go!” sit-in group’s website, which details the nature of the sit ins that took place at the time.

Mission Statement of Rob Ford Sit-In Protest Group:

“The peaceful Rob Ford Must Go! permanent rotating citizens’ sit-in takes place directly in front of Rob Ford’s office at Toronto City Hall.

The sit-in is active every weekday from 8:30 am until 9 pm. The sit-in is also active on weekends and most holidays from 10 am to 6 pm.

Basically if City Hall is open, the sit-in is there.

The sit-in will remain until Rob Ford is no longer Mayor of Toronto.”

“Given the extraordinary volatility, unpredictability, and pure surreality of Ford’s term so far, that could mean the sit-in extends until the election this October… or ends tomorrow. There’s genuinely no way to know. Every day brings a new set of circumstances and experiences.

Everyone is welcome to join the sit-in! It belongs to all citizens of Toronto.

We welcome people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all political affiliations, nationalities, creeds, races, religions, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, and cultures. This is Toronto! Diversity is our strength!”

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“Come and sit-in for a few minutes or a few hours – any time you’re able to spare is meaningful and most valued!

“Why should I do this? What are you guys doing there? Looks like you’re just sitting around talking!”

It’s impossible to accurately convey what it’s like to participate in the sit-in if you haven’t been there.

Every day an enormous amount of new experiences and interactions take place. The situation is constantly shifting, evolving, fluid.

Over the initial days that we’ve been there, participants have broadly speaking found that the sit-in serves several vital purposes simultaneously.”

Why Was There A Rob Ford Protest Sit-In?

These were the details laid out by the protest group, verbatim, according to their website at the time.  It shows the animosity towards Rob Ford’s mayoral “occupation” (according to this group):

“The sit-in creates and sustains a place directly outside of Rob Ford’s office that is the complete opposite of Ford; where he lies constantly, the sit-in is scrupulously honest; where Ford is hateful, the sit-in is loving; where Ford is angry and seeks to create division and mistrust, the sit-in is calm and constantly works to create unity and trust and meaningful connection between all its participants.”

“Ford speaks in garbled lie-saturated soundbites; the sit-in provides an opportunity for Toronto citizens and residents to have very long, involved, complex, revelatory discussions about all manner of subjects of vital importance to the city.”

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“Ford targets vulnerable groups (eg: the LGBT community) in order to rally his dwindling base around hating “the other”; the sit-in welcomes everyone, from all walks of life, embracing Toronto’s official motto – “diversity is our strength”.

To wit – symbolically and practically, the sit-in represents the best of Toronto. It’s everything that Ford isn’t. It’s a direct manifestation of the city we want to live in – Toronto the Good.

The sit-in provides a place for people who’ve been shell-shocked and appalled by the unprecedentedly wretched behaviour of Rob Ford and his brother Doug to share their frustration and anger and sadness and horror with fellow citizens who really, really “get it”.

It’s a very warm, open, healing environment, and it really helps participants to work through their various forms of Ford-related suffering and outrage in a positive and constructive manner, leaving us feeling empowered and energized.

Sit-in participants keep coming back over and over – many remark that they just can’t get enough of it.”

Suffice it to say, the sit-in protestors had a lot to say about Rob Ford, and most of it was not exactly ringing endorsements of the man, however, the overall atmosphere of the sit-in was meant to positive and a form of “healing” from what many considered the PTSD of Ford’s tenure as leader of Toronto.

The Death of Rob Ford

Although many people were against Rob Ford throughout his career in politics, he did have those who stood by him, and many were shocked when he finally passed on March 22, 2016.

This seemingly tenacious politician who elicited strong feelings on both sides of the political aisle finally succumbed to his battle with cancer, and it definitely struck a chord with the residents of Toronto, and beyond.

A statement by his family at the time said: “It is with heavy hearts and deep sadness that the Ford family announces the death of their beloved child, Rob Ford, at the age of 46.”

Rob Ford had entered palliative care at the beginning of that week prior to his death, no longer responding to treatments against his cancer.

This disease was diagnosed in September 2014. He then gave up running for mayor of Toronto, but was still re-elected city councillor for the Etobicoke North sector, a district he had already represented from 2000 to 2010.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau underlined the death of Mr. Ford, “at the too young age of 46”. “My thoughts are with his wife Renata and his two young children. Our thoughts are with the entire Ford family at this difficult time,” said Justin Trudeau.

rob ford death

More people came forward with statements: “I am very saddened to learn of the death of Rob Ford after a long battle with cancer,” said Rona Ambrose, interim leader of the Conservative Party. She insisted that “he fought tirelessly for taxpayers and was a real spokesperson for the people he represented.”

So, even though liberals seemed to despise him for his highly dubious antics, the then-leader of the Conservative Party hoped that Canadians will be able to put aside the character’s controversies to remember his accomplishments. “Despite the hardships and controversies he faced, it is my wish that people will remember Rob Ford for his love for his community and his country,” added Rona Ambrose.

“His absence will be felt” …The death of Rob Ford in 2014 aroused a wave of sympathy among both his loyal supporters and his most ardent detractors, in the Canadian metropolis and elsewhere in the country.

Mr Ford’s successor as mayor, John Tory, was saddened that the ‘deeply human man’ will never return to City Hall, where ‘his absence will be felt’.

He hailed the memory of a man “who expressed the substance of his thoughts and who presented himself to the town hall animated by deep convictions”.

Shortly after his passing, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne interrupted question period in the Legislative Assembly to offer her condolences to those close to the former mayor, as MPPs were shocked to learn the news, even though it was known that Ms. Ford was already in hospice care.

Support from the “Ford Nation”

Those who knew Mr. Ford describe a man for whom loyalty to friends and family was as unwavering as the support he received from the “Ford Nation”, a group of voters inspired by his tough and relatable personality.

“He is very loyal to his friends. He has a big heart, described former Liberal MP John Nunziata, a friend of the Ford family. “He does not send his friends to the slaughterhouse.”

This loyalty was mutual. His family remained by his side despite the scandals, and thereafter, during the dark days of his illness. A significant number of voters also continued to support the “Ford Nation”.

His brother, Doug Ford, who took over as mayoral candidate after his cancer was discovered, finished a close second in the October 2014 election – a sign of his brother’s continued popularity, which was proven ultimately by his being elected as premiere of Ontario, a position he still retains.

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Mr Ford, who kept a picture of his dead father on his office computer, liked his role as ‘everyman’.

The regular guy, as he described himself, drove his own car – a luxury SUV – to work every day and made war on the “downtown elite” his hobbyhorse.

He was, according to his more reserved admirers, the typical politician who had a natural talent for making people feel that he really cared about their concerns.

When he died, Rob Ford was survived by his wife, two children, mother and three siblings.

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Hopefully this article has given you an idea what Rob Ford represented, which was many things to many people.  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, so please chime in if you stop by!