In the wake of Rob Ford's death on March 22nd, 2016 many are looking back on his life. Along with his troubled and eccentric moments, he was a man of the community and his legacy, in whichever light you see it, will be remembered for years to come.
He was an incompetent mayor and used racial slurs that I found offensive. That is why I never supported him and my disappointment in him had its limits. However, I voted, donated resources and volunteered for Mayor John Tory, and that is why I find the actions of the current mayor and that of his most loyal allies within council even more hurtful.
To Mr. Ford's loved ones, I offer my deepest condolences. To everyone else, I suggest that we see his story as a cautionary tale about not wasting the wonderful opportunities provided to us in our lives, but rather, facing our own demons head-on so that they never prevent us from fulfilling our great potential.
We knew he wouldn't be convicted, but it still felt like the criminal justice system had betrayed us. Another affirmation that the law is not on our side; that we live in a country where people are still more comfortable chastising women for getting involved with violent men than we are with holding those men accountable for their own behaviour.
I am changing, my home is changing, and the former never feels further from the latter than during weeks like this. Change happens whether you're there or not, and that truth isn't always advertised front-and-centre by everyone who encourages you to chase your wanderlust.
When someone we dislike passes away, we far too often revert to muted resignation. We purse our lips, dip our heads, and maybe mumble a few innocuous words of remembrance. It feels cheap to assail a dead man, especially when they're survived by a mourning family. So let's not assail Rob Ford The Man, but we should take a good hard look at Rob Ford The Character, or Rob Ford The Gimmick.
He was a seemingly well-intentioned politician with a problem in the limelight of municipal politics and you'll be hard pressed to find a Torontonian without an opinion. But if you look past the madness of his political term and stay focused on his politics, you'll find a mayor who's left a legacy to be proud of.
If it had been your friend or family member demonstrating the same behaviour your first reaction would be to get them help, but our first reaction towards Ford was to want him to lose his job, blackball him from society, and then we laughed some more.
The rise of Donald Trump is familiar to Torontonians because Rob Ford speaks the same language. Like Trump, he's a master of slogans, sound bytes, and keeping it simple stupid, delivering a refreshing voice that sounds like a real human being. Trump's Twitter handle @realdonaldtrump drives this point home. They are both rich successful white men, born to wealthy, powerful fathers, who present like average Joes, sweaty red faces and all. We've seen this before, and we've seen it work.
The Donald Trump phenomena in the United States reminds me of our experience in Toronto, Canada, when a so-called everyman mayor who appealed to angry populism was elected. Ford's behaviour proved to be such a distraction that much of his agenda, such as it was, stalled at every step. Ford, like Trump, loved to attack people on their appearance, ethnicity and gender. Over time, personality-driven, badly behaved leaders will get to the point of alienating all but their most ardent allies.
Canadians now realize that the most likely party that could defeat the federal Conservatives and bring real change is the NDP. As a result, we could see from the recent polls that support for the Liberals is withering whereas that for the Conservatives is stagnant, and that for the NDP is rising.
I was recently in Toronto to interview John Tory, the 65th and current mayor of my adoptive hometown. Thinking about my return to New York, I couldn't help but make comparisons. An age-old saying came to mind. "The grass is always greener on the other side." In my case, was it greener on the other side of the border?
Following my complaint to Toronto's Integrity Commissioner, Valerie Jepson, Toronto's 64th mayor and (now) City Councillor, Rob Ford, offered a "sincere, specific and public apology" this morning. His apology was based on racial slurs he made in 2012. Ford needs to understand words -- and in particular, racial slurs -- are powerful and hurtful to all Canadians.
Elliott understands that and Hudak never did and that is why he failed as a leader. The inexperienced life-time career politicians, the obnoxious Patrick Brown and the not-ready-for-prime-time, Monte McNaughton, do not certainly understand that reality.
My point is simply this: Many want change in Toronto politics, but unless we start changing the way that media covers local council races, the same style of candidates will continue to be elected, we can no longer be allergic to the potential of something better, unlikely or fear something different in such a diverse city.
In a world where government bureaucrats continually treat residents as "taxable widgets" instead of citizens and where process overrules logic and common sense, the Ford family's apparent commitment to servicing every constituent complaint is not only refreshing but exactly what some constituents are looking for. The question though is whether or not it is the right approach to a growing and vibrant city.