Rob Ford, current Toronto city councilman and former Toronto mayor, died today at 46. Ford had recently been placed in palliative care at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital after his cancer grew worse and his body stopped responding to chemotherapy.
Ford leaves behind a now vacant city council seat, two children, a widow, and a very strange legacy as Toronto’s mayor.
Ford served three terms as a Toronto city councilor between 2000 and 2010, during which time he elicited more than his fair share of controversy. However, his brash, bizarre persona didn’t enter the larger spotlight until his tenure as Toronto’s mayor.
The tipping point came in May 2013, when video surfaced that revealed Ford smoking a crack pipe. This scandal broke amid a myriad of incidents, much of it publicly acknowledged by Ford himself, ranging from sexual harassment to alcohol abuse.
Of course, those in the Toronto area (or those tuned into Toronto-area news) knew of Ford’s antics well before the crack pipe incident. His substance abuse problem — mainly alcohol, but also including cocaine and hashish, in addition to crack — was widely known and very public, an “open secret” at city hall, according to The Toronto Star.
But beyond substance abuse, Ford truly stood out among scandalized politicians for his appalling public remarks (“If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line…those are the facts.”) and, moreover, his refusal to hide his behavior or back down in any way.
Despite intense pressure from the city government and the public, Ford refused to resign in the wake of the crack pipe scandal. Even after the city council essentially removed his powers in late 2013, Ford would not capitulate.
He did finally take a leave of absence and enter rehab in mid-2014, then returned briefly to office before his term ended in November of that year.
Two months prior, he had been diagnosed with liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer affecting fat cells in the abdomen. Nevertheless — and despite the years of scandals — Ford ran for, and was elected to Toronto’s city council, where he served until his death.