We Went to Rob Ford’s Post-Funeral Party to Hear the Best and Worst Ford Stories

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We Went to Rob Ford’s Post-Funeral Party to Hear the Best and Worst Ford Stories

One supporter compared his fall to that of Jesus's betrayal by the Romans. She didn't say who Judas was.
March 31, 2016, 6:50pm

All photos by the author

The sun is setting on Rob Ford's former stronghold of Rexdale as a line of people billows out of the Toronto Congress Centre. Ford Nation, in all its boisterous glory, is here in full effect: the signage, the T-shirts, and the coveted Rob Ford bobbleheads. The crowd, at his visitation, funeral, and, now, subsequent after-party, were enamored with gospel singing, post-Easter cheers of "Ford to rise again," and a hefty amount of backslapping. Provided this event was in a park filled with barbecues and empty beer cans, you could mistake the congregation that formed as almost any other iteration of Ford Fest.

Except something crucial is missing: Rob Ford. The former mayor, once lambasted across international publications for offensive tirades and smoking crack, is dead. Cancer took his life last week at the way-too-early age of 46. Since then, Toronto has been divided in mourning either the greatest or worst mayor it's ever had. There's been silence, selfies, statues (possibly), and a grand visitation in city hall. The post-mortem red carpet was rolled out and garnished with sprinkles of the gravy train.

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3I came to the event—a post-funeral goodbye for the former mayor—for one reason: I needed to find out why Ford Nation loved and continued to love this man. I needed to understand why honest, hardworking people from different ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds would rally behind a man who worked against their interests and constantly perpetuated dishonesty and disrespect for those he claimed to serve. Most importantly, I wanted to know if another shitshow like Ford could happen again—with someone like his brother Doug—and what that might mean for Toronto.

When I arrived at 6 PM, the line outside the building numbered just around 200. By the time me and a small squadron of other journalists got through the doors at 7:30, that number had tripled. I was given a smiley stamp on my wrist, and a ticket for one free alcoholic beverage. I looked up from the blue coupon and stared at a slideshow of Ford, a known alcoholic, being projected on center stage. Somehow, the thought of sipping booze in his honor felt a little distasteful. Before I tossed my voucher in the trash, I saw a man in a wheelchair and a man with a cane toast wine.

"To Rob," one of them said. "To the best mayor!"

I spent the next 20 minutes canvassing the room for those decked out in head-to-toe Ford gear. When I finally approached some of them, they asked what organization I was with. Most were relieved VICE wasn't a newspaper—in the mind of Ford Nation, the mainstream media are crooks who drove Ford deeper into addiction and eventually to death. With a little bit of trust gained, I asked them what it was that really made them love Rob Ford so much.

Paul, 50, Electrician

VICE: What was the best thing Rob did for Toronto?
Paul: He stopped the waste of our money. Y'know, he cared for the average guy like you or me, and he went in there and put a boot on the throat of the greed.

What in particular did he save you money on?
I once had a whole bunch of extra stuff on my lawn. It was leftover from a fellow we had in our basement. Not garbage but junk. The city said they wouldn't take it without extra bags, zips, a whole lot of money. I called the mayor, and he took care of it for me. Didn't cost me a dime!

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Do you have any stories of Ford yourself?
That man was good, real good. I was so blessed to meet him one day, just near here actually, and he paid for my drink. I was having a real bad day, and he just sat there and listened. He asked what I thought of the city, and I told him. He called me up one day too, just out of the blue, asked how I was and if my garbage was being taken care of.

Mazlin, 52, Unemployed

VICE: How did you come to love Rob Ford?
Mazlin: I used to work for [the Fords] in the 90s, and they were always so, so good to me. He really did care for Toronto and its people. He was just like Christ.

How so?
He came through these streets and met people, he helped people, he was here to heal. He was like Christ the Lord. The way they betrayed him and stabbed him and left him to die, and then turn around and be at the front of his funeral, pretend like nothing happened. It's sick.

Who was the Judas in all this?
I don't want to talk about that, but Doug, I want to talk to him. The same people [author's note: the "people" are city councillors] who turned their back on Rob were the first to roll out the carpet when he died. I want to know why Doug, if it was up to him, y'know, let them sit at the front of his funeral.

Danny 28, Construction Worker

VICE: Did you ever meet Rob Ford?
Danny: Three times! First was on the Danforth. He was out there with his family I think. I don't remember. I said, "Hey mayor, can I get a selfie?" He was totally cool with it and remembered me when we ran into each other again.

This was before the crack scandal?
Yeah, but that didn't bother me.

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Why not?
He was a man like all of us, and he was doing good things so the media, like you and others, tried to make it into something more than it was because they all wanted it back to business as usual. Keep taking from the taxpayers.

I'm a student with a very moderate amount of income. I'm not even an average taxpayer.
With your fancy camera and all that, I'm sure you get kickbacks.

Teresa, 67, Retired

VICE: Did Rob ever call you?
Teresa: That's how he got my vote. Asked me if I was happy with my house, my driveway, my neighborhood. Talked me for a good ten minutes. I wasn't even expecting it.

Do you think a statue should be built in his honor?
Abso-fricken-lutely! We don't have great men like him in this city often enough, and I don't even know of any other statues like that. Who else are going to put, uh, what's his name? Who makes the music? [Asks friend.] Drake!

Are Rob Ford and Drake on the same level?
[laughs] Oh love, no. Rob was a much better and more respectable man.

Donna, 49, Mother

VICE: What's the best thing Rob Ford did for Toronto?
Donna: He made this city great again! The gravy train—who's going to stop it now?

Maybe Doug?
Not Doug. I think he's tired. So tired of all the skimmying and scamming that goes on at city hall. Maybe Michael [Ford, Rob's nephew].

What about John Tory?
You're out of your mind if you think that sideman is going to do what Rob did by even an inch. Rob cannot be touched.

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Did you ever meet Rob?
No, and it makes me so sad. I saw him from a distance, but I never got to shake his hand. I wish I had.

Leslie, 40, Pool Technician

VICE: Who was Rob Ford to you?
Leslie: The best—just the best person. He will not be forgotten. We won't let [them] forget.

Did you feel like he was given a rough go near the end of his term as mayor?
The whole city turned on him, and this man, he loved us. So yes, I think that we, and I say myself included, did not treat him fair.

A woman I spoke to earlier compared him to Jesus.
He, well, look at what happened! Compare it to the Bible. The tales are the same. He looked and sounded and acted like Christ in many ways. Y'know, you can't take that away from him.

I think that's kind of debatable. What's the best thing he did for you?
He fixed all the potholes along my commute to work. Now they're starting to pop back up again, now that he's gone. I don't think that's a coincidence.

What will you do now that he's gone?
Fight for Doug, fight for the Fords. They are down right now, but they will come back and help us respect the taxpayers again.

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