Rob Ford, Toronto’s outspoken former mayor, died on Tuesday after an 18-month battle with cancer. He was 46 years old at the time.
“With heavy hearts and enormous loss, the Ford family announces the departure of their loving son, brother, husband, and father,” his family said in a statement.
“A dedicated public servant, Councillor Ford has spent his whole career serving the people of Toronto.”
Ford was a divisive figure in the politics of Canada’s largest city, but many praised him for his common sense and direct approach to budget cuts.
Ford was on the city council for eleven years and is known for his combative political style, conservative ideals, and practice of handing out his house phone number and personally answering people’ calls about potholes and broken water pipes.
He was elected mayor in 2010, appealing to suburban discontent by vowing to end “the war on the automobile” and “stop the gravy train” of government spending.
However, in May 2013, Ford made international news after a video of him smoking from a crack pipe was published. Ford first rejected the allegations, but eventually recanted once the audio was discovered by Toronto police months later.
“I tried crack cocaine,” he admitted to reporters. “However, I don’t.” Do you think I’m an alcoholic? No. Have I attempted it? Perhaps in one of my alcoholic stupors around a year ago.”
He refused to resign. In the United States, his statements and actions became weekly fodder for late-night TV shows such as David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jon Stewart.
However, his popularity remained. Hundreds of people waited in line for signed bobblehead dolls of Ford. Ford spent numerous hours photographing people wanting to be taken with a worldwide star, while “Ford Nation,” the moniker given to his most ardent admirers, grew.
His outrageous behavior persisted, creating an image that contrasted dramatically with Canada’s reputation for calm, unadorned politicians. He prompted gasps on live air when he used filthy language to deny telling an employee he wanted oral sex. The father of two school-age children stated that he is “happy married” and that he “had more than enough to eat at home.”
A slew of controversies followed, including another video in which Ford stumbled around a room raving about killing someone, and a third in which he called the local police chief a disparaging term and attempted a Jamaican accent. The city council eventually stripped him of most of his powers and reduced his status to that of a figurehead.