Ford’s legacy

The East York newspaper that this website is affiliated with called not once, but twice, for Rob Ford to resign or be removed from the office of Toronto mayor. And when Mr. Ford fell ill and brother Doug ran in his place for the mayor’s chair, the East York Observer heartily endorsed John Tory instead. We stand by our assessment that the Ford mayoralty was both unsuccessful for its policies and ignominious for the private — and sometimes-public — behaviour of the then-mayor.
But like many others, we perceived a change in Mr. Ford toward the end of his life. And it was hard for even those opposed to his mayoralty to not feel sadness at his passing last week. Losing someone to cancer, after all, is something that most of us can relate to. Maybe all of this helps to explain the suddenly soft tone of news media coverage toward Mr. Ford, and the outpouring of sympathy at what seems like a state funeral this week.
But maybe there’s something else too.
Mr. Ford was a man of the people, and he touched many lives. We remember his marching in East York’s Canada Day parade. We also remember a political life built around saving taxpayers’ money — and that matters to a largely working class community like this one. He exposed some city councillors by releasing a video naming off all of the benefits they received. Free golf games, free Metropasses and free trips to the zoo were all paid for by taxpayers. Mr. Ford also promoted a less expensive solution to subway expansion to help Torontonians get around their city better. Although the school board ultimately concluded Mr. Ford’s coaching of the Don Bosco Catholic School football team amid controversy about his leadership, it was telling to see some players show up for the Ford funeral observances. And then there were all of the little things — like Mr. Ford’s apparently bottomless pool of patience for being stopped by Torontonians for a quick conversation and a selfie.
Ultimately, although he put Toronto under the global media spotlight for all of the wrong reasons, at least Mr. Ford eventually acknowledged that his behaviour was wrong. That kind of admission is tough for anyone, and it’s especially tough for someone in the public eye. When he admitted to substance abuse and pledged to clean up his act, it showed a measure of honesty and courage.
Mr. Ford is arguably the most famous mayor of Toronto — and of a major city anywhere, anytime. That may make some of us wince. Unfortunately, his antics overshadowed the good he did. But nobody is perfect. And there’s nothing wrong with also remembering Mr. Ford as a down-to-earth politician who tried to carve out a niche for himself as a champion of the little guy.