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April 2016

Daddy Wasn’t There

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“Rob Ford showed the world many faces, all real but none really him. He is a jumble of contradictions: attention seeker and shy loner; bully and kind-hearted friend; a savvy politician who can’t comprehend much of what happens around him; the self proclaimed ‘best mayor this city has ever had’ and the guy with such low self-esteem that he’ll stare at floor to avoid eye contact.”

In the world of politics there is nowhere to hide, not even in the Ford family confines of 15 Weston Wood Road. One slip of the tongue will have the lens of the camera meeting you at your door and the boom of the microphone ‘inadvertently’ banging your head hoping to provoke your next mistake. These realities are only magnified when you’re a mayor of one of the biggest cities in the world. Toronto is one of the largest media markets in North America, with the 4th largest population and a municipal budget that exceeds that majority of other provinces and territories combined. These factors make the position of mayor one of the most powerful in the country and therefore one of the most desirable, highly sought and  fought after. It would be safe to presume that the elected mayor from the majority of wanting candidates would be well-dressed, law-abiding, non crack smoking, and a devoted family man. Enter Rob Ford; the antithesis of the prototype, Mr. Ford become the spokesperson for the angry voters who have become frustrated with the government’s big talk and little action. Anger has brought about a gravitational pull towards flawed candidates that make them an unlikely hero, but he is their unlikely hero and nobody else’s which at times made him seem larger than life.

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A mayoral campaign filled with bluster, bigotry, and intimidation; Rob thrived on utilizing voters worst fears against them for his cause and bringing to earth the lowest characteristics of humanity as a basis for his political longevity. When it came to dealing with important issues Rob employed an unusual brand of communication and behaviour that concurrently maintained a high rate of believability among his devotees. Call it false hope, false sense of security but the anti-government, anti-establishment, anti-politician’s politician had a plan and there was no deviating from that plan. A mayoral candidate whose mandate was the people; he had great aspirations to hold councillors accountable for their actions and save the taxpayers money in the process. What the voters took for granted before the Ford revolution, they now relied on their own good faith that espoused the opinion of ‘who would lie to millions of listeners?’ What they saw before them was an everyman that often tailored facts to corroborate his argument and matched it with an out-of-this-world stoicism that made the majority of people believe that what he said was gospel. His demeanor and presence made it difficult for the listener to realize that what he was really doing was making it up as he went along. And when others held him liable it was much more easier to decipher their motivation when they were one of the Leftist Elites and just one of the many members of the Anti-Ford movement. To the ardent Ford Nation their opinions meant s@#t to them and they let the non-believers know.

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“With Rob Ford’s election as mayor, Toronto municipal politics became very personal. The mayor wasn’t just right or wrong, according to your political perspective. He was good or bad. Reactions to him were emotional. He made some people feel good inside because, for the first time, they’d found a government leader who cared about them. Others got angry just looking at him, as if he headed an occupying power intent on imposing its values and culture.”

I detest the thought of another fellow politician, let alone the city councillor primarily responsible for putting forth the motions that eventually took Mayor Ford’s powers away writing a tell all. A politician from ‘Affluent Willowdale’ who resided at the opposite side of the political spectrum, let alone a fellow councillor and at times confidant (as minimal as it may have been), writing a book about a man representing ‘Working Class Etobicoke’ during the downfall of his career, and at a troubling point in his personal life. It had an unmistakable stench of opportunism and made me want to dislike this book from the outset. I then got to thinking, where are you going to get an honest take on the political process from a primary source and a glimpse into the personal life of Rob Ford other than from a person that was around him more than his own wife and children? You sure aren’t going to get it from one of the Ford family, and by the end I feel that it was as fair and balanced as one could expect.

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Personally I followed the saga of Rob Ford very closely. To me it was more than a political story, it was a personal story. Like any great spectacle it had many psychological and emotional elements that stirred a reaction out of the public. Whether you loved him or hated him, one thing’s for sure, you watched. A campaign that contained an assortment of gaffes and buffoonery made for great television on the daily as sick as it may sound. You never knew what you were going to get: a carnival act that was the Ford weight loss challenge, an episode of a ‘peering’ photojournalist, a public man handling of Pam McConnell inside the council chamber, Rob’s fluency in an assortment of languages, and countless other memorable moments. What I wasn’t familiar with were his father’s story, his own upbringing with his family, and his early political career. This book highlighted the power of the media, provided some great insight into the Ford Family and entertainment that only a person who shared a seat in the council could provide. I enjoyed The Only Average Guy by John Filion very much and would recommend it to people that didn’t really pay close attention to the events during the Ford reign and are wondering what all the fuss was about outside the infamous Crack video.

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“Imagine aching to be noticed, searching for yourself in the eyes of a father who turned away while you looked up, reaching for a comfort in the arms of a family that remained distant, even as it came to your rescue. Your sister is an addict, your oldest brother as tough as your father. Another brother, the one who has everything, seems jealous of what little you have. When he comes to your side, everyone can see which of you stands taller. Imagine being Rob Ford.                                                                            

After Rob’s election as mayor, his family was exalted as never before. Soon his behaviour became disgraceful, but the Fords refused to be disgraced. Rob was left out there, taking the beating, until he could stand no more.”

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