KEYBOARD COMMANDO – Like him or loathe him, Rob Ford put his stamp on Canadian politics

Mac Olsen
Smoky River Express Editor

We lost an icon of the Canadian political scene last week, as Rob Ford passed away on March 22, due to cancer.

The former Toronto mayor turned city councillor was no stranger to controversy and outright brazen behaviour. He certainly could have lost his political fortune and faded into history because of his conduct.

One of the biggest issues he had to confront as the Toronto mayor was a substance abuse problem. In November 2013, he admitted to using crack cocaine.

Whether Ford should have resigned at that point is a matter of debate. But such an admission has not brought down other high profile public figures.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton admitted that he had smoked marijuana as a young man. But this wasn’t an albatross that he had to carry around his neck for eight years in the Oval Office.

There have also been allegations that Ford made slurs against minorities. If that is true, then he certainly owed an apology or apologies to those he denigrated.

It was his confrontations with Toronto City Council and their attempt to remove him from office which gained him the most notoriety. He came very close in 2014 to being removed as the mayor. However, Ford survived the palace coup and planned to run for mayor again. Then he received his cancer diagnosis in September 2014 and decided to run as a city councillor instead, which he handily won.

What I know about Ford comes mainly through the media. That is how we come to know most of our public and political figures. The one thing I am certain of is that Ford was a populist, a man of the people. Like current Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, Ford knew how to connect with people and could empathize with the common person.

Although Ford touched a nerve with many people and society in general, he certainly had his admirers.

Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel said in a Tweet recently, Ford was “an unforgettable guy who loved his job and city like few men I’ve met.”

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in his Tweet about Ford, “Rob was a fighter throughout his life & dedicated public servant who will be remembered for his courage, love for Toronto & his family.”

Did Ford owe an apology for his own style of politics? No. He had his detractors and enemies, as any politician and public figure would.

What I liked about him was that he didn’t fall in line with ‘political correctness’. Except for things like the alleged slurs against minorities, I say to his detractors, oh well if you didn’t care for him. He was well liked by many and that’s all that mattered.

Historians may not be kind to Rob Ford, either. Yet, their judgments aren’t the be-all and end-all of Ford’s legacy.

What matters is, Rob Ford put his own stamp on Canadian politics. So did Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper.

Rest in peace, Rob Ford. You certainly left a lasting impression on us all.

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