Ford quits mayor re-election bid

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Published: Saturday 13th September 2014 by The News Editor

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Ailing Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s dramatic decision to drop his re-election bid opened a new chapter in the saga, as his tough-talking but less magnetic brother runs in his place and brings his own storied past into the scandal-laden campaign.

Analysts say this latest chapter may be short-lived, with Doug Ford’s candidacy unlikely to change the outcome of the mayoral election.

Rob Ford had been expected to lose after a string of revelations involving crack-smoking, public drunkenness and outrageous behavior.

Both Ford brothers have been prominent in Toronto politics over the past four years but Doug Ford, now a city councillor, has mostly played the role of fiery defender of his younger brother, taking on Toronto’s police chief and even author Margaret Atwood as the controversies multiplied.

Rob Ford, 45, announced his decision to drop out of the race yesterday, two days after he was taken to hospital for abdominal pain and the tumour was discovered. Biopsy results will not be back for a week and a definitive diagnosis is pending.

“I stand here with mixed emotions and a very heavy heart. First and foremost I am concerned about my brother,” said Doug Ford, who was surrounded by family members outside the Ford family home hours after registering his candidacy. He will face two other major contenders on October 27.

But Toronto will not see the last of Rob Ford anytime soon: He has opted to seek a city council seat representing a district in his home suburb of Etobicoke, where his brash everyman style and conservative fiscal policies first gained a faithful following that became known as Ford Nation. A nephew dropped his bid for the seat to make way for him.

The international spotlight first fell on Rob Ford in May 2013, when Toronto Star and the US website Gawker reported the existence of a video apparently showing the mayor inhaling from a crack pipe. He denied the existence of the video for months but finally admitted to using crack after police announced they had obtained it.

Toronto’s city council stripped Rob Ford of most of his mayoral powers but he refused to resign. When reports emerged this year of a second video showing him apparently smoking crack, he entered rehab for two months and returned to work in June.

Throughout it all, Doug Ford, 49, stood resolutely by his brother. He initially backed up his brother’s denials of substance abuse problems, accusing the media of a conspiracy, but expressed relief when the mayor sought help. He tore into the mayor’s detractors, once calling Toronto’s police chief “biased” for saying he was disappointed in Rob Ford over the crack video.

He also picked his own fight with renowned author Margaret Atwood when she defended library programmes that were threatened by Rob Ford’s proposed budget cuts. “I don’t even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is,” Doug Ford told reporters.

The Ford brothers, blond and hefty, grew up wealthy in their conservative suburb, the sons of the owner of an adhesive products company.

After 10 years on the city council, Rob Ford was elected mayor as the underdog fighting against the “gravy train” at Liberal-dominated city hall. He had long cultivated an image of a politician who would drop everything to help a constituent with a leaky roof.

Doug Ford won his brother’s old council seat that year. But critics say the elder Ford brother had little opportunity to build his own positive image as he fought for the mayor.

“Most of Doug Ford’s media interactions have been negative, either defending his brother or on pro-active attacks against opponents, said Emmanuel Caisse, president of PRquant, a media and political analysis firm.

“Many times, the word ‘bully’ comes in when describing his behaviour. But while Rob did get called the same name, his image was softened by the constant stream of smiling selfies with Toronto residents, the many stories from happy residents who had an issue personally fixed by the mayor,” he added. “Doug Ford doesn’t have that.”

Doug Ford has himself been the subject of drug allegations. The Globe and Mail newspaper reported last year that he sold hashish for several years in the 1980s, allegations the city councillor has denied.

Nelson Wiseman, a University of Toronto political science professor, said he does not expect Doug Ford to overcome John Tory, a moderate conservative who is now considered the front-runner. Leftist Olivia Chow is also in the race.

“The Ford years in City Hall are coming to an end in a few short weeks,” Mr Wiseman said. “After this Toronto’s mayor will never again make it in the international news again.”

But some Torontonians appreciate the Ford brothers’ efforts to cut back on spending.

“I was going to vote for Rob,” said Satti Singh, 58, who said she tried to visit the mayor in the hospital but was not allowed in. “He’s done good things for the city, he has saved us money, he’s about taking care of the poor. But now I’ll vote for Doug because he’ll continue what Rob started.”

Published: Saturday 13th September 2014 by The News Editor

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