As I write this, the news of Rob Ford’s passing is only 15 minutes old. While the ex-Toronto Mayor was not without his demons, with a very famous public demise in 2013, people are putting aside politics to send their condolences to the Ford family.
Ford was just 46 when he succumbed to his 18-month battle with Pleomorphic Liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer that attacks soft tissues in the body. He died a day after going into palliative care at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. It’s a sad end to an interesting politician.
With his penchant for drug use and his scandalous antics aside, Ford did have a rather fascinating political career. After being elected to city council in 2000, Ford was elected as mayor in 2010. I lived in Toronto in the last half of 2009 and witnessed part of his mayoral campaign. His ability to appeal to the masses as a regular Joe kind of guy is what attracted flocks of supporters to his side, forming “Ford Nation”. Along with his catchy slogan of “stop the gravy train”, he stood for the common man’s battle to take money out of politics.
Ford knew the importance of his supporters and didn’t take them for granted. Instead of being an aloof councillor, interested more in the name plate than any political action, Ford made an effort to respond to every single call he ever received while on council, and continued this habit while in the Mayor’s office. He made himself approachable, something that politicians often fail to do.
In February, I spoke with Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano for an article. I asked her about her communication methods while in office and she said she tried to make it a habit to answer and return every call or email she received during the day. I asked her if she knew that Rob Ford had the same habit and that is why people liked him, to which she smiled.
“Anybody that wants to contact me can contact me,” she said. “The City of Fernie and every municipality, the business is service, that is all we provide is service. So that has to be a part of your mandate, you have to give that service of giving your attention and listening to people. If you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t be here.”
I didn’t necessarily always agree with Ford’s politics or some of the more scandalous statements he made, but I did enjoy reading about him and his political values. And I agree with what made him first attractive as a politician– ensuring that you are accessible to the voters. Of all the things he is remembered for, I hope this is one of them.