This is what explains something that’s far too inadequately understood these days — his enduring appeal among many Torontonians. Just last weekend, he attended the big Canadian Football League game in Toronto, where thousands of hardworking, ethnic and white guys cheered him.
These are the voters who originally swept him into power over his liberal establishment rival (a man who, by the way, was an acknowledged drug addict himself).
For years, Ford devoted huge amounts of his time as well as substantial financial donations to a school football team comprised mainly of inner-city African-Canadian teenagers at real risk of signing on to or falling victim to the hard streets they came from.
One of the genuine tragedies of this current farce is that Ford was told he could no longer coach the team. The kids and their parents were not consulted, and when he heard the decision, Ford reportedly wept. That may not match the images making headlines now, but it doesn’t surprise all of us who have seen him taking in troubled teenagers and giving them a bed for the night, feeding them and putting them on the right track.
He has only spoken about this work recently, in an attempt to counter the wave of horribly negative publicity.
He also makes a point of returning every phone call personally, and is known as the mayor who will show up in the projects, make his own inspections and then make sure toilets are fixed, plumbing repaired and roaches removed. The work makes voters happy and drives opponents nuts.
In Ford’s first year as mayor, a renowned Toronto Muslim activist named Tarek Fatah, an outspoken critic of Ford’s ideas and personality, was struck down by cancer, spending months in the hospital. Without notice and with no media present, Rob Ford visited to offer personal support and see how he was doing. I know this because an emotional and genuinely moved Fatah told me himself.