Diane Ford, the mother to both a Toronto Mayor and the Premier of Ontario, passed away from cancer during the holidays at the age of 85. Premier Doug Ford sat down with Political Specialist Cynthia Mulligan for a candid talk about his mother and confidant.
Cynthia Mulligan (CM): She was the mother to the premier of Ontario and the mayor of Toronto and married to an MPP.
Doug Ford (DF): She was the unofficial chief of staff to city councillor Rob Ford, myself as city councillor, Michael as school trustee, Michael as councillor, Rob as mayor, my dad as MPP, myself as Premier. She’d always have her advice, she was very pragmatic. Sometimes we look through politics in tunnel vision, she had a wide lens. She always said politics should never get personal and I though boy politics, mom that’s hard. (Laughter )
CM: What is the best piece of advice she ever gave you?
DF: Best piece of advice, don’t take anything personal, but don’t get personal with people. You can talk policies and things you disagree but don’t go after someone personally no matter who they are or what they look like or whatever they do. She didn’t like it when we got into full out battle in politics.
CM: You’ve had a few
DF: I’ve had a couple. She’d give me a tongue lashing privately.
CM: Would she? Is there one moment in particular when she said you’ve done the wrong thing Doug.
DF: Many. Back in Rob’s days or my mayoral election, I used to say the elites, it would drive her crazy when I said that.
CM: She didn’t like that word?
DF: She didn’t like that because it was personal. You’re going after someone, so she didn’t want me to say elites.
CM: You still did (laughter)
DF: I try to stay away from that (laughing). Recently, not knowing the full autism file …she told me, why are you trying to hurt families of children with autism? I had to explain it to her that we aren’t. We have to restructure and put more money. She said, you gotta do something, you gotta make a rapid change. That wasn’t the reason we made the change by any means but it was just hearing your mother confirming what you knew already, it really bothered her. But my mom never affected policy, ever. Ever never. It wasn’t her job to tell us policy. Like a traditional mum, she would tell you what she thought. …She had a lot of common sense items that were just common sense. She gave a lot of advice and she wouldn’t be shy, privately, to lay into us once in a while.
CM: Did she, this is personal, did she have any advice for you or parting words of wisdom?
DF: She said something funny …she said don’t get upset, get out there and fix the province (laughs). I broke out laughing. I went from being upset to laughing. I said ‘ma you’re a classic.’ She never liked me calling her ma, she told me I sounded like a hillbilly. (laughs)
CM: What drove your mother, what motivated her?
DF: Her family, her kids. It was all about the family. And the community. Once she focused on an organization be it rotary or cancer or Easter Seals or anyone that came to her to ask for support, she’d never say no. Once she was in she was full steam.
CM: Big loss for your family.
DF: Huge loss, absolutely a huge loss. The other day I was in the office and I went to pick up the phone to call her and there’s no one to call. I’d call her a couple of times a day just to see how she’s doing. She’s going to be missed tremendously.
CM: What’s your mother’s lasting legacy?
DF: Her generosity and how she opened up her home. In her mind, one of her tools was she had a beautiful home and beautiful backyard and she would go to so many events, so many fundraisers but if she could host and raise money for a great cause and have the venue to do it at, that’s how she would give back.
CM: When we started the interview you said she was the strongest person you’ve ever known.
DF: Absolutely she was, everything she went through, all the challenges…
CM: What do you mean, all the challenges?
CF: When she lost my dad, that was very lonely. After that, challenges with Rob, watching your kids get attacked – we were no angels, you’re in politics, you’re ready, doesn’t matter if you’re orange, green, blue or red, you know what your getting into but it was hard for her to see the attacks. But she’d be back there fighting for us.
CM: It must have been hard for her watching him struggle on the world stage, grappling with…
DF: But she would be the first out there defending him. But make no mistake, behind closed doors he was getting a piece of her mind. She was instrumental in making sure Rob would go get the support he needed, which he did. Sometimes as a mom you see all sides, you always want to see the good side …support your kids to the death. Speaking of death, the death of Rob devastated her, she never got over that ever. When Rob passed she’d be at the grave site every day. That really hit her.