[Lessons Learned. Memories cherished]
I had my first dealings with Rob and the Fords almost 40 years ago and in the process, I came to understand a bit about the Fords. He and the family had great business moxie, terrific drive and impressed me as a guy who was as honest as the day is long.
I switched employers and lost track of him for a while until he grabbed my attention again as a Toronto city councilor some years later. He was still “boyish” but even more down to business than I recalled.
Toronto does not have a good reputation in the”905”. The troubling reality is those successive generations of Toronto’s municipal politicians got increasingly into the bad habit of promising the electorate outlandish and insanely impossible schemes. Thus, Toronto’s municipal ratepayers were lulled into a misconception of entitlement. The belief that had been instilled and reinforced over the years is that Toronto could simply expect senior levels of government to spread the tax pain over a wider base. That type of system places no responsibility to curb excessive spending or create efficiencies.
I recall a newspaper story very early on in the Rob Ford political story. When I read it, my mind to the business guy that I had dealt with many years earlier. That newspaper story spoke volumes about the things Rob Ford held as paramount. That first story of “councilor” Rob Ford was a disclosure of individual city councilors’ expenses and office costs. While the entire council to a person was spending tens of thousands extravagantly, Rob’s annual expenses amounted to $200! He had mastered economics 101 and was practising economics at the master’s level in a class filled with people (other council members) who had not a care for the tax payer or his/her taxes.
It certainly wasn’t that Rob’s expenses reflected that he was not delivering for his constituents either. I live close enough to Etobicoke to have several friends residing there. In checking with them, they swore by the guy and had come to love him. They called with a problem and shortly after, he was knocking on their door and listening to the complaint. Rob’s bluster and bluntness got their problem solved and, in the process he was blazing a new path where efficiency and removal of economic (tax) waste was his enemy.
Rob Ford certainly dispelled whatever “leftist” notions I had during his early days on Toronto City Council. It was always about “value for money” and I heard from more than a few Toronto City Servants that they enjoyed their dealings with Toronto’s first truly honest council member. It came as no surprise to me that Toronto finally elected him as mayor in 2010.
Nor did it come as too much of a surprise one of Toronto’s daily newspapers (with hard line lefty leanings) immediately began targeting him. All humans have their demons and Rob had his. However fiscal honesty was never one of his vices. There was NEVER even the suggestion that Rob Ford used his political office to “feather his own nest”. He simply had not been raised that way nor was he silent when he saw others making deals that favoured themselves of their friends. He could be down-right surly when debating such things, political correctness be damned and Toronto’s “lefty news” celebrated in publishing stories depicting his outbursts against wastage while disregarding the underlying story about whey councillor/mayor Ford had spoken out.
Rob Ford left a political legacy behind. In my mind, that legacy will remain “Rob Ford, the tax crusader” and none of the personal stuff that the “lefty news” harvested by way of stalking the man. No, the real story was always right there in plain view – thrift, efficiencies and opposition to wastage. The other parts matter little.
Those who live in the Newtonbrook vicinity or have sons involved in St. John Bosco high school football add more insight into Rob Ford the man. Ford voluntarily coached the Bosco Eagles from 2002 through 2013. The F-150 (as Mr. Ford became known) coached his Bosco Eagles into the Metro Bowl finals in 2012 leading a team that was much less affluent and was very much an underdog. The Metro Bowl is the Grey Cup for high school footballers in the Greater Toronto area. That football team was outfitted in equipment paid for by Rob Ford.
Rob Ford leaves behind his wife, Renata; daughter, Stephanie; son; Douglas; his mother, Diane; sister, Cathy and brothers, Doug and Randy. I share your grief. We have lost much and thank you for lending him to us.
In addition, Rob Ford leaves behind a huge and committed “Ford Nation”. Let’s strive to not forget what Rob Ford stood tallest for: Public service. Never should we accept (from any politician) less than complete respect for our tax dollars. Never should we stop caring about each other. You are missed, Rob.
Copyright Thunderbird Rising 2016
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