In October 2011, after what most considered to be a nearly perfect first 10 months in office for Toronto’s late Mayor Rob Ford, a bubbling hostility was starting to emerge, and it didn’t sit well with me.
In a whimsical moment of frustration over something I saw posted on Facebook, I clicked the “Create Page” button, came up with the name “I Hate the War on Mayor Rob Ford”, and began what became a daily fight against the forces that seemed to be coming together to bring Rob down.
Over the next three years, as the page grew to thousands of regular followers, garnered the attention of media that included interview requests from every major media outlet in Canada and many overseas, and ate up countless hours of time in my busy life as a businessman, husband and father, the most frequent question asked of me and co-contributors Sue Ferguson-Ross and Rob Hoshowsky was:
Why on earth are you doing this?
It’s not like it was earning me many new friends in my uptown neighbourhood. And as the years went by, I learned, to my surprise, that it earned me no friends in the two political parties I belonged to, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and the Conservative Party of Canada.
It wasn’t as a personal favour to the Fords. My entire interaction with them, up to that point, consisted of a single day of canvassing for Rob in suburban "Bathurst Manor" in the summer of 2010. (To this day, I’ve only had a handful of additional chance encounters with the family and the team.)
I was on no one’s payroll, despite being accused countless times of being a staffer at the Ford family business, Deco; a Ford family operative; a Conservative Party agent; and a Sun Media promotional asset to name a few.
In the vivid imagination of the not-always-lucid left, at various times I was supposedly a secret pseudonym for Ezra Levant, Sue-Ann Levy, Joe Warmington, David Price, Sandro Lisi, Nick Kouvalis, Randy Ford, Doug Ford, and even Rob Ford himself.
I still have the hate-messages to prove it.
Why did I spend countless hours fighting it out on Facebook over fat jokes and law suits, budgets and bike lanes, public appearances and private moments, conflicts-of-interest and conflicts-of-personality?
I did it for one reason, and one reason only: because Rob Ford was the one politician who truly had my back. As a regular, hard-working, God-fearing family man in the City of Toronto, the attacks on Rob were attacks on me. I took them personally, and reacted accordingly. Hundreds of thousands of others like me felt the same.
Defending the Mayoralty of Rob Ford was not an easy job, and not for the reason you might be thinking. Rob’s problem with the irresponsible ingesting of substances, as any political insider knows, was not unique. If he had more people trying to help him conquer his problem, rather than weaponizing it against him for political and journalistic gain, it would never have been such an issue. It was the weaponization of his private behaviors, through the media-political assault against him, and not the behaviours themselves (as odious as sometimes they became), that ultimately made his job as Mayor essentially impossible. It was easy to point this out, and was obvious to most. Suggesting that the man deserved a helping hand, and not a boot on the neck, was an easy case to make.
What made the defense of Rob Ford so difficult was the fact that he was an undeniable success as Mayor. His list of political victories in the first two years of his mandate – zero property tax increase, elimination of fees, outsourcing of garbage pickup, banning public transit union strikes, flatlining spending – is truly remarkable and should become a textbook-case of how to run a taxpayer-friendly modern municipal mayoralty.
The lib-left, and all its co-conspirators in "the Pyramid of Extortion" (a term coined by local radio personality Lou Schizas) know there’s only one thing to fear, and that is effective leadership on the center-right. Their only path to maintaining power is to rip apart any effective Rob Ford-like figures to pieces.
So, the more successful he was, the more resources they poured in to tearing him down. Lawyers, journalists, politicians, law enforcement – everyone in the Pyramid of Extortion was committed to turning right into wrong, virtue into vice, and support for Rob into a social stigma. The sheer overwhelming nature of this war made fighting it an almost impossible task at its peak. At "I Hate The War on Mayor Rob Ford," we had thousands of people fighting in his defense, and we couldn’t stop the deluge. Imagine how Rob, Doug, and their one or two true allies in a system flooding the battlefield against them would have felt.
Did their "War on Ford" work? Unless you blame his ultimately incurable pleomorphic liposarcoma diagnosis on the stress and negative karma inflicted upon him by his aggressive harassers, then the answer is no. Most political watchers I know and respect say that Doug Ford’s ragtag campaign coming within 65,000 votes of John Tory’s multi-million-dollar four-year campaign, as a last-second replacement in the 2014 Toronto Mayoral Race, was bordering on a miracle, and that if Rob had been healthy and in the race, he would certainly have won. The overwhelming outpouring of love and support for Rob and the Ford family since his passing last week has demonstrated that the appetite for his politics and style was not a passing fancy.
It is clear that, despite its best efforts, the "War on Ford" failed to break the spirit of Toronto’s regular, hard-working, God-fearing family-oriented people. The Ford style and the Ford message is a genie that all the high-self-esteem, clever little Poli-Sci grads who are doing their best to ruin modern politics, can never put back in the bottle. “Respect for Taxpayers” is a torch waiting to be handed off and carried for the next epoch.
Carry it if you dare.
One thing is for certain – we will have your back.