Rob Ford, Toronto's Controversial Former Mayor, Dead at 46

May not agree with his politics but this man was an icon in his own right. Rest in peace, Rob Ford.

Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, whose tumultuous four years as leader of Canada's largest city included an admission he smoked crack cocaine and a history of erratic behaviour, died on Tuesday after struggling with cancer. 

October 27, 2010: Rob Ford poses for a photograph at Sugar Beach in Toronto a few days after winning the election. (Brett Gundlock / National Post)

He will be remembered as many things: as the crack mayor, as the fat mayor, as the mayor who had more than enough to eat at home. But his political legacy is larger and stranger and harder to pin down than all of that. In his brief, tumultuous time in office, Ford never stopped surprising. He provoked anger. He provoked disgust. But for a large subset of the city — through it all and certainly to the end — he was the guy, their everyman saviour, the one who’s looking out for “us.”

In politics, Ford built an unlikely coalition of fiscal conservatives, alienated suburbanites and the politically dispossessed. He pushed through significant reforms for his first 18 months — on transit and garbage and labour. But he squandered every chance he had to do more in a haze of drinking, drug use, intransigence and lies.

On that day outside his office, the day he told the world he smoked crack, Ford faced a huddle of cameras unprecedented in Toronto politics. There were big network cameras, all blocky and square, smaller handheld units, and the smart phones that by then almost every reporter held. In one angle, shot from Ford’s right, a single reporter’s face stands out the background. At every revelation — “crack cocaine,” “drunken stupor,” — her chin whipped to the right, her eyelids popping up. You can almost hear the unspoken questions in her mind: “How on earth is this happening? How is this real?”

They are questions that, even in death, Ford still provokes.

Robert Ford was born on May 28, 1969 at Humber Memorial Hospital in Etobicoke. He was the fourth child and third son of Douglas Ford Sr., a politician and label magnate, and Diane Ford (nee Campbell) a powerful matriarch who helped direct her sons’ political careers.

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