Donald Trump and the Rob Ford funeral in Toronto

Mar 30th, 2016 | By | Category: In Brief

Stephanie Ford speaks at her father's funeral, standing with her mother and brother. (Photo: The Canadian Press.)

One of our wider Toronto region reporters has been complaining lately about how the local and regional media have been going overboard over the unhappy and far too early death of former notorious but widely known Toronto mayor, Rob Ford.

(“Ford died on March 22 after battling a rare, soft-tissue cancer for 18 months … He was 46.”)

We understand the complaint, and share in it ourselves.

Politically, Rob Ford is almost certainly most remarkable for the diverse constituency of ordinary people in Canada’s present-day free and democratic society that he managed to put together over his 15+-year career in Toronto local politics.

As former rival Olivia Chow remarked on cp24 TV in the immediate wake of his sad passing on March 22, Rob Ford’s progressive opponents (a category that we confess would include ourselves) could learn a few things from the former “stop the gravy train” mayor —  about real human relationships with the very voters they (we) claim to be serving first.

Clinton Leonard, a former football player coached by Rob Ford, speaks at the funeral at St. James Cathedral in Toronto, Wednesday, March 30, 2016. (Nathan Denette/CP.)

This does warrant some kind of non-partisan commemoration. And commemoration of this sort has been happening, again and again, at the public funeral today and over the past week at large.

At the same time, the choice of former hard right-wing Ontario premier Mike Harris as first speaker at the funeral service, along with brother Doug Ford’s declaration that the “Ford nation will continue” in his eulogy, also shows how those closest to the Ford family have worked to extract at least some partisan political gain from the former mayor’s tragic early death.

(And, while it is certainly wrong to speak ill of the dead at their funerals, it does remain true that Mayor Rob Ford did actually break some laws, while hypocritically attacking others for breaking other laws. That will always be an inescapable part of his record too — even if many now urge respect for how he finally worked to “confront his demons” and clean up his act. And of course that he was guilty of being influenced by such demons, like so many of us today, only increased the warmth towards him felt by many of his strongest supporters.)

Jemila Abbulkadier wipes away tears as she writes a message in the book of condolences for Rob Ford at Toronto City Hall. Laura Pedersen / National Post.

Two things have nonetheless finally impressed us about the funeral today and earlier commemoration at city hall this week — and strengthened our resolve not to speak ill of the dead (at least until they have been gone for some respectable time!)

The first is that the thing about today which most impressed Mayor Ford’s severest critics among we counterweights editors — like many others in the city —  was the utterly non-partisan eulogy delivered so effectively and impressively “by his 11-year-old daughter Stephanie.”

The second is an assortment of thoughts about the much-used current analogy between former Mayor Rob Ford in Toronto, and current aspiring Republican candidate for the office of US President, Donald Trump.

Various characteristics of the people gathered at the funeral today — at the old St. James Anglican Church on King Street, and in the procession to there from Toronto City Hall — show that in some important ways Donald Trump is not really like Rob Ford at all.

Don Bosco high school football players (the team Rob Ford loved to coach) hug after his funeral service. Tks to Craig Robertson.

One was the sheer diversity of former Mayor Ford’s enthusiastic supporters. It seems unlikely, for instance, that you will see the numbers of black (African-American or as we say up here African Canadian) citizens at a Donald Trump rally, as have been present at the Rob Ford commemoration in Toronto. Or, in this city where half the population was born outside Canada, the number of recent migrants from other places who speak English with strong accents.

As no less a Canadian public figure than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has observed, there are some similarities between Rob Ford and Donald Trump. But even in his worst moments Mr. Ford had real democratic populist virtues that seem light years away from Mr. Trump.

Rob Ford didn’t just appeal to”little guys” as a shrewd political tactic. Even though he was born with a much smaller silver spoon in his mouth than Donald Trump, he appealed to many different kinds of ordinary people everywhere, because when push came to shove, he really was one of them (er we mean “us”) himself.  May he rest in peace.

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