Dear World: Meet Doug Ford, One of Canada’s Most Unpopular Politicians

From alleged drug dealing to his inability to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, here’s a fairly complete list of every controversy from the man who used to live in Rob Ford’s shadow.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford in happier days.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford in happier days. File photo from 2019.  Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Over the weekend, Canadians in general—and Ontarians in particular—may have felt a sense of deja vu, as a Washington Post piece calling for Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s resignation became the most-read story on the U.S. newspaper’s website. It’s been almost a decade since another Ford, Doug’s younger brother Rob, made headlines south of the border (and everywhere), and then, as now, those headlines were not exactly friendly. But where Rob was routinely covered for his off-colour commentary and substance abuse, Doug was slammed by WaPo columnist David Moscrop for his actual governing, specifically his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which somehow, is worse than ever in the province, and is threatening to overwhelm the health care system. The editorial came just two days after Ford, in a bizarre, rambling press conference, implemented a raft of new restrictions, including outdoor playground closures and significantly increased police powers (both of which have been walked back following swift public backlash). The moves were just the latest in a series of policy decisions made by the Ontario government that seem to ignore science altogether, plummeting the province into a third wave that is exponentially worse than its first or second.


For many, however, the WaPo editorial may have been their first exposure to Doug Ford. So while Ontarians have long known the senior Ford brother for his series of political blunders, the rest of the world may be wondering who, exactly, the Etobicoke native is. So here, we present a brief history of Doug Ford, told mostly through his checkered political past.

Rich son, alleged hash dealer

To know Doug Ford is to know the Ford family. Doug Ford, born in 1964, is the second of four children of Ruth and Doug Ford Sr., the latter of whom was the founder of Deco Labels, a labelling company with annual sales of roughly $100 million in 2011. Ford Sr. was also a one-time backbencher with the Progressive Conservative Party who gave his sons a real “right-wing, self-reliant, up-by-your-bootstrap” political vision, according to the Toronto Star.

Doug Jr. graduated high school in Etobicoke, and dropped out of college after two months. For a time in the 1980s, he allegedly sold hash, according to the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper. 

$20 bills for voters and a fight with Margaret Atwood 

When Rob Ford ran for mayor in 2010, and won, Doug Ford was elected city councillor for Ward 2 Etobicoke North, the ward vacated by Rob. In March, during his mayoral campaign, Rob Ford said of his brother: “Wait until he gets going; council’s not going to know what hit it.” John Tory, Toronto’s current mayor and a longtime Ford family friend, said at the time that “if you were looking for a better-run government, Doug Ford is certainly the kind of person you would want.” 

Early in his tenure as a city councillor, Doug Ford defended his (and his brother’s) decision to skip Toronto’s annual Pride parade, saying the family was headed for the cottage that weekend instead; the Ford family would choose Pride weekend for their cottage weekend every single year thereafter. He also got in a fight with Margaret Atwood, had a complaint filed against him by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty for telling an activist to “get a job,” and sparked a rumour that the New Orleans Saints would be relocating to Toronto as part of his ongoing obsession with bringing the NFL to Canada. 


He hosted a radio show with his brother called Ford Nation during his brother’s tumultuous mayoralty, and said after Rob Ford admitted to having smoked crack, amid numerous videos showing the then-mayor obviously intoxicated, that he had no idea that his brother had any substance use issues whatsoever; instead, he wished “the rest of the politicians in the city would come clean the way Rob has come clean.”

Doug Ford has been a consistent advocate for crackerjack, ill-fated municipal development plans, supporting—among other things—the development of a mega-mall in Toronto’s Port Lands, which would also include a giant ferris wheel and monorail. He also proposed digging a private toll tunnel under Toronto’s Gardiner expressway, if only to help him avoid hitting cyclists with his car.

In 2014, then-Toronto police chief Bill Blair served Ford with a defamation notice after Ford accused Blair of issuing a subpoena to Rob Ford to appear in court in the case of his friend and driver, Sandro Lisi, as a form of “payback.” Doug Ford later apologized in writing for the comments. Two months earlier, Doug Ford said a home for developmentally disabled youth in Etobicoke had “ruined the community,” and called a female Toronto Star reporter a “little bitch.” 

In fall 2014, Ford lost a mayoral bid in Toronto, after replacing Rob, who was diagnosed with cancer, on the ballot. He was fined nearly $12,000 for illegal signage during his campaign. The year before he was accused of buying votes after handing out $20 bills to public housing residents in Toronto. He defended forking out cash, saying he simply didn’t have time to buy gift cards to his much-beloved Tim Hortons instead.   


In 2016, Integrity Commissioner Valerie Jepson determined that Ford violated city hall’s code of conduct while he was a city councillor by attempting to “secure preferential treatment” at City Hall for two clients of Deco Labels. According to Jepson’s report, Ford did not disclose the companies for whom he set up meetings did business with Deco, and also accepted a gift of a dinner and tickets to a tennis game from one of the firms. Ford called the finding “a joke.” 

Ford announced he would run for mayor of Toronto again in 2018, but pivoted to a bid for leadership of the province's PC party after then-leader Patrick Brown’s resignation amid sexual misconduct allegations. 

Cheap beer, cuts to health care, and then, a pandemic

An investigation into Doug Ford’s successful 2018 campaign for premier—whose entire campaign seemed to hinge on the promise of cheap beerfound widespread evidence of alleged voter fraud in a number of PC nominations, including ballot-box stuffing, ineligible voters, and fake memberships; meanwhile, actors were hired to play Ford supporters at campaign events, and the premier was accused of sexism during his campaign on numerous occasions. His early premiership involved significant cuts to public health funding and slashing the number of teaching jobs in Ontario by more than 3,400—policy decisions that aged poorly, almost immediately.


Ford’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been criticized essentially from Day 1, with poor testing infrastructure, a lack of support for small business, and continued cuts to long-term care facilities coming under fire. In November, the Star found the Ford government contradicted its own public health agency’s advice when it launched its epically confusing colour-coded plan for provincial COVID-19 restrictions (which categorizes “grey” as the highest restriction level, with “red” coming in second). Ford offered 5,000 vaccines to Amazon, to reopen the company’s shuttered warehouse in Peel, as hospitals and vaccine clinics shut down due to supply shortages. In September, as COVID cases began to surge, he went to a wedding

In the middle of all this, it was reported that Ford’s director of media relations, Ivana Yelich, is living with right-wing political columnist Brian Lilley. (Lilley recently reported that Ford told his team to stop leaking to journalists, specifically to him. Huh.) 

During the pandemic, the Ford administration has grown increasingly fond of MZOs, or minister’s zoning orders, which allow the province to override municipal development decisions. Ford snuck a number of MZOs into COVID-19 relief bills throughout 2020. And earlier this month, four significant developers who stand to cash in big from a fast-tracked highway development were found to have strong ties to the Ford government. Developers connected to the Highway 413 project not only own most of the land alongside the proposed highway; they have also contributed at least $813,000 to the PC party since 2014. The highway will cost as much as $10 billion; Doug Ford has called paid sick days, widely considered by health care professionals as one of the most effective ways to halt the pandemic, a waste of money


Ford, who has been blasting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over his failure to procure enough vaccines, recently turned down the prime minister’s offer to send the Red Cross to help with Ontario’s beleaguered vaccine rollout. Ford did ask Alberta, where a third wave is also underway, for help. He was declined. 

Ford, a provincial politician, announced Monday he had reached out to “Denmark, the U.S., Norway, the EU, and India” in an effort to secure more vaccines. 


Ford’s COVID cheesecake, which he claimed was his mother’s recipe, was actually just the no-bake cheesecake recipe from the back of a Philadelphia cream cheese box

As of Monday afternoon, Ford has not been seen publicly since Friday’s press conference. 

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