By Sabrina Almeida
Mississauga, April 1 (CINEWS): Ford nation showed up in huge numbers to say their goodbyes to the ‘best mayor ever’ – Rob Ford! A man whose death garnered almost as much attention as his colourful life. As former Ontario premier Mike Harris pointed out in his eulogy, the greatest tributes came from the common people, the ones he went out of his way to meet and serve. Many shared personal encounters with this controversial politician who put Toronto on the world map even if it was for the wrong reasons. Naturally they had only great things to say.
Rev. Andrew Asbil, rector of St. James cathedral said in his homily few would experience the fame and notoriety, the adulation and brickbats that the former mayor did. “Very few of us in this room know what it’s like to carry the burden of living your failings and your weaknesses in such a public way as Rob Ford.” And in the end that is what he had to live with. They say that your whole life flashes before you in the moments before your death… and I wonder how Rob Ford saw his.
That Rob Ford was an exemplary politician who deserved glowing eulogy is debatable, but that he was 100% human is a fact that no one would argue. And it was Rob Ford the man that was celebrated by his fans and constituents and mourned by his family in the days following his death. During his short and highly-publicized mayoral stint, Rob Ford wore many hats. He was an angel to those he helped, a thorn in the side of those he bitterly opposed, a bully to many of his staff and constant source of excitement and breaking news for the media. Reflecting on his days in the mayor’s office, there are a few accomplishments to eulogize (like getting the city’s largest union locals to sign collective agreements, outsourcing waste collection west of Yonge Street and trying to streamline the city’s budget) but unfortunately they have been eclipsed by his notoriety. It was Ford the man that overshadowed Ford the politician. We will never know whether his Ford nation would have re-elected him because his illness prevented him from going further. While for those of us who watched the circus from the sidelines he became an object of ridicule and shame, make no mistake that to them he was a saviour. Rex Murphy summoned up the man and the politician rather well when he said, “Mr. Ford was one of the most remarkable ordinary people Toronto has ever produced.”
Whether it was being a reference for a renter, calling utility companies to complain about a constituent’s recurring high bills or delivering pizza for a shop owner, he seemed to find the time to do the little things many politicians would think they were above. As his daughter Stephanie so simply stated “he helped many people” and that is what his voters loved and will remember him for.
Perhaps his garrulous and larger-than-life persona was really driven by his belief that he was the ‘mayor of Canada’ as brother Doug Ford stated in his eulogy. He had a mission to stop the gravy train and would let nothing or no one could get in his way. Unfortunately his transgressions and subsequent illness prevented him from accomplishing his goals.
The words “he is mayor of heaven now” uttered by his little girl, who was a picture of poise and composure, reverberated with many. One could imagine him trying to direct proceedings in the celestial city “where transit was on time and taxes if any are low”.
There is little doubt that he was for his people and they for him. The eulogies and tributes were honest in their acknowledgement of his strengths and failings. Ford nation loved him in spite of his shortcomings because they identified with him. It is the rest of us that expected him to be perfect.
As he passes into the history books one thing’s for sure, both the notoriety and support he inspired in his short political career is more than what most politicians can accomplish in a lifetime. And if they are looking to be remembered many will perhaps be looking to take a page from Rob Ford’s book. Sinners are often remembered long after the saints. Even the media has been silenced by his death and forced to acknowledge the legacy of the common man’s saviour. Rest in peace Mr. Ford.