The sign is in Sydney’s snowed covered garden leaning against the side of his house in North Etobicoke. The man was scrapping the last of snow and ice from his driveway when he stopped to talk about the Ford family.
Sydney’s support for the family’s politics dates back decades. He voted for Doug Ford Sr., the premier’s father, and Progressive Conservative MPP for Etobicoke Humber from 1995 to 1999.
“Dougie is doing a good job and Rob was pretty good too,” Sydney said about the current Premier of Ontario and the former Mayor of Toronto.
Rob died in March 2016 following an aggressive battle with cancer. He served over a decade as a Toronto City Councillor and one term as mayor
In over 15 years in office, Rob was not without memorable moments.
Most notably, admitting he suffered from alcoholism along with making international headlines when reports and a subsequent video surfaced of him using crack-cocaine. In addition to the video, Rob was photographed with three men police have associated with the drug trade at 15 Windsor Rd. down the street from Sydney’s home.
“Nobody’s perfect, we all have an addiction to this or that in life,” Sydney said. “I think something should be named after him.”
Rob coached football at the now closed Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School. Toronto City Councillor for North Etobicoke Michael Ford said football and youth were one of the “main drivers” in his uncle Rob’s life.
Although the days of Rob coaching youth on the field at Don Bosco are gone, community members like Denise still walk around the track. As she walked off of the field Denise said Rob was a “people person” and “stood by his word.”
“Not everybody’s perfect” she said. “Maybe a yearly memorial or just something to remember him would be nice.”
“Amen to that sister,” said Angela, a stranger who joined the conversation. “People believe he did awful things, but it was never like that.” She said Rob was better for her community than his older brother the premier.
Doug Sr. was the first Ford family member elected in Etobicoke and in 2010 a park was named in honour of his commitment to the community. “Our dad raised us to give back to the community,” said Doug, his second oldest son, at the unveiling of Douglas B. Ford Park
There have been similar proposals to recognize Rob’s commitment to Etobicoke and the greater community including naming a street and even a football stadium after him. Both of those proposals are now defunct, and for the short term there will be no streets, parks, and facilities named or renamed in Toronto.
The moratorium on naming was passed by council on Sept. 30. It is a part of the city’s response to a petition brought before council that asked for Dundas Street to be renamed.
The petition was started by Andrew Lochhead who said Henry Dundas, the streets namesake, actively participated in obstructing the abolition of slavery.
“There’s been a series of alternative facts put forth largely by the Dundas family,” Lochhead said adding it represents the families “power, privilege and wealth.”
In response to the Dundas petition, the city is developing a commemorative framework for naming, renaming and other forms of public memory. The framework is expected to be put before the Executive Committee for review in the first quarter of 2021.
Lochhead said it is the responsibility of Torontonians to take an active role in deciding what kinds of people we want to remember. In response to naming something in honour of the former mayor, he said that is “Best answered by communities who have been directly impacted by the legacy of Rob Ford.”
March 22 will mark five years since Rob died, yet how North Etobicoke and Toronto will remember him is uncertain. There are many memorable instances of Rob’s public life, from knocking over another member of council after he was stripped of his full mayoral powers to falling over himself during a 2012 Grey Cup demo.
He is also remembered for being colourful, as was his language at times.
Rob swore multiple times after walking headfirst into a camera lens, he refused to apologize after making comments about the work ethic of Asian people along with denying claims he asked a special assistant to perform oral sex with crude remarks on live television.
There was also the shirtless jogger, Joe Killoran, who had a heated confrontation with Rob on July 1, 2014 in East York.
“You’re a corrupt lying racist homophobe,” Killoran said in a field of Ford Nation signs. “He has questions to answer to the people of Toronto and he simply won’t do it.”
Michael says that his uncle being racist and homophobic is “the furthest thing from the truth” and “very select people may have said that.” As for finding a place for Rob in public memory forever, a previous proposal to name a street near Kipling station after Rob was halted at the family’s request.
“That wasn’t in Etobicoke North. Etobicoke North has been his home,” said Michael. Any commemoration of Rob will include a discussion amongst the family specifically his wife and kids.