Rob Ford, one of Toronto’s most prolific and polarizing mayors and councillors, has passed away at the age of 46.
Ford was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital Tuesday morning after battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer called pleomorphic liposarcoma since 2014.
“With heavy hearts and profound sadness, the Ford family announces the passing of their beloved son, brother, husband, and father, Councillor Rob Ford earlier today at the age of 46,” his family said in a release.
According to family, Ford was recovering after becoming “very weak” from previous treatment and was under 24-hour medical watch before his death.
“The family asks that you respect their privacy and join them in their grieving and their prayers,” the release states.
Flags at City Hall, Metro Hall and Toronto civic centres have been lowered to half-mast, and will remain that way until Ford’s funeral. Books of condolences are at Toronto City Hall and at civic centres, as well as an online one.
In an outpouring of emotion, people have also been leaving messages in chalk at Nathan Phillips Square, near the “Toronto” sign. “RIP Ford, the people’s mayor,” one note said.
Rumours of his deteriorating condition caused many to report his passing early on social media in mid-March, but his office was quick to maintain in a statement that Ford was still alive and fighting with family by his side.
Toronto Mayor John Tory quickly made a statement about his former political adversary.
“The City is reeling with this news, and my thoughts are with his wife Renata and their two children, as well as Rob’s brothers Doug and Randy, his sister Kathy, his mother, Diane, and the rest of their tight-knit family, including TDSB Trustee Michael Ford,” Tory said.
“I have known Rob Ford for many years. He was a man who spoke his mind and who ran for office because of the deeply felt convictions that he had. As a councillor, mayor and private citizen, Rob Ford reached out directly to people across the city with a phone call, an offer of advice or support, and I know there are many who were affected by his gregarious nature and approach to public service.
“His time in City Hall included moments of kindness, of generosity to his council colleagues and real efforts to do what he thought was best for Toronto. He was, above all else, a profoundly human guy whose presence in our city will be missed.”
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Kathleen Wynne issued a statement soon after the announcement was made.
“Rob Ford earned widespread respect for his unwavering persistence in the face of serious health concerns,” she said, “which he summed up in a statement released from his hospital bed during the 2014 campaign: ‘Be strong, stay positive and never, ever give up.’”
The Etobicoke-native has been a staple in Toronto politics since 2000.
Serving as councillor of Ward 2-Etobicoke North from 2000 to 2010, Ford established himself as a charismatic powerhouse with a catchy one-line slogans like “stopping the gravy train,” “respect for taxpayers” and “subways, subways, subways.”
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After serving a decade as councillor, Ford was sworn in as the city’s 64th mayor and represented Toronto on an international scale for four years.
He was caught up in a whirlwind of controversy during his terms as councillor and mayor, but the most memorable is the crack scandal. In his last year as mayor, reports of a video of the former mayor smoking crack cocaine surfaced. Ford vehemently denied the allegations for months but after a year of investigation by local media and police, Ford admitted his crack use was real. The news was blasted all over Canadian and American media, and earned the former mayor an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel.
Despite all this — Rob refused to step down as mayor. Ford took a leave of absence and entered rehab instead until June 2014.
But before all the publicity, Ford was simply the youngest son of Deco Labels and Tags founder Doug Ford Sr. and had dreams of becoming a pro-football player. Ford returned to Etobicoke after a brief move to Ottawa, married his high-school sweetheart Renata and has never left since.