Former Toronto Mayor and Councillor Rob Ford died on Tuesday this week at 46, ending an 18-month struggle with cancer. Despite his notoriety and a scandal- stained legacy, Ford has built a large fan base and a strong level of support.
Ford is largely perceived as a profoundly human guy. His sensitive, warm and “in touch with people” side has a deep appeal to the public. Mayor John Tory praised him as a man devoted to the city, saying that he ran for office because of the deeply felt convictions he had. He would reach out directly to people across the city with a phone call, offering advice or support to those in needs.
Ford has still lived in the hearts of many of his supporters. He has received overwhelming support from people in Toronto and around the world. More than 6,400 messages of sympathy had been posted to a site GetWellRobFord.com – a website for his supporters to express their best wishes -- until he ended the most difficult passage of his life. His passing has sent shockwaves throughout the city, prompting a flood of tributes from politicians and public alike.
Ford’s gregarious nature and his by the people, for the people attitude has affected many, and has a special place in the heart of immigrants from an authoritarian state. It stands in strong contrast to the privileged and corrupted political echelons in their home country, who consider themselves superior to the millions of people they governed. Their rare public appearances are always tightly controlled. They are often escorted by an entourage and security detail, or hide behind tinted windows in luxury car. Any civilians wanting access to them must pass the political censorship.
I met Mayor Ford at an Asian Food Fest several years ago in a hot summer evening when he was the mayor of Toronto. Ford arrived in the fest without pre-announcement. I spotted him among hundreds of visitor with noodle boxes and fried squids in their hands. Through some efforts, I secured a spot beside him and asked for taking a photo with him, when he just finished a photo with a Chinese guy and was about to move on. He noticed my timid request and made a smile pose for my camera.
That photo, along my article on this paper “I always remember the photo with Mayor Ford” has become part of a special bond that this paper has formed with the former mayor. Prior to his election, Chinese News had published an article endorsing him and supporting his conservative ideology of “stop the gravy train”. In 2013, when he was engulfed in scandals, one of our reporters interviewed him in his office on his personal issues as well as critical matters around the city.
I’ve kept the photo with Ford till this day, after he lost his difficult battle with cancer. As the city mourns the loss of the former mayor, I cherish the special bond and the memories of this most colourful, authentic and down- to- earth politician in Toronto history.
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