I first heard of Rob Ford when he was running for mayor of Toronto. Like many others, I didn’t take him seriously. How could a man be so polarizing yet expect to earn the respect of one of Canada’s largest cities? Everyone considered Ford to be very outspoken and just plain loud. He was like an annoying mosquito that you were constantly trying to swat away. The way Ford conducted himself in public office made it seem like he was trying to be Toronto’s biggest laughingstock.
Against all odds, Ford did win the mayoral race. He proved his doubters wrong, and went on to have one of the most colourful political careers in Canadian history. While I’m not too familiar with Toronto politics, from what I’ve seen, Ford truly cared about the people. I’ve read stories of how he would go door-to-door in inclement weather just to speak with Torontonians. Journalists remember him as one of few City Hall politicians who would actually return phone calls.
For all his compassion and concern, Ford had his moments too. His dependence on drugs and affinity for questionable antics soon became daily headlines. The world also took notice, and it wasn’t the good kind of attention. Toronto and Ford became the butt of late-night talk show jokes. As a Canadian, I was even embarrassed.
As for the rest of the story, Ford left office under a cloud of scandal. His second run for mayor was short-lived as a result of health complications. John Tory won that race, and it seemed that peace and order had finally been restored at City Hall. In my opinion, nothing was ever the same.
When I heard that Rob Ford had passed away, I was shocked. I thought that I would have been relieved, even glad that such a polarizing figure would be out of the public spotlight for good. However, I felt slightly empty knowing that I would never read another story about Ford’s latest acts in public office or roll my eyes at his latest antics. I’m sure that most of Toronto felt the same way.
Ford was a faithful public servant who cared about people from all walks of life. He made time for anyone who wanted to speak with him. He changed the way money is spent at City Hall. Most importantly, he created more awareness about municipal politics and civic engagement. The fact that Ford’s body is currently lying in repose at City Hall shows that he was more than just a weekly fixture on TMZ’s homepage. Tributes from Mayor John Tory, fellow councillors and other public figures indicate respect for a man who showed an enormous amount of love for Toronto.
To me, Rob Ford is a hero of modern-day politics. Sadly, I don’t think there will ever be anyone quite like him.