By Andrea Hopkins and Matt Scuffham
Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, whose tumultuous four years as leader of Canada’s largest city included an admission he smoked crack cocaine and a history of erratic behaviour, died on Tuesday after struggling with cancer.
Ford, 46, was serving as a city councillor and undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of cancer that recurred despite surgery and several rounds of chemotherapy. His death was announced by his office.
The man who replaced Ford as mayor, John Tory, offered condolences, calling Ford “a man who spoke his mind and who ran for office because of the deeply felt convictions that he had.”
Ford, married and a father of two young children, was diagnosed with a rare and hard-to-treat cancer in September 2014 after being hospitalized with abdominal pain. He pulled out of a campaign for re-election as mayor when the cancer was found, and was elected a city councillor instead.
The cancer diagnosis came after Ford had become international news for his outlandish behaviour. During his mayoral term, he admitted to smoking crack cocaine, buying illegal drugs and driving after drinking alcohol. Multiple videos surfaced of him drunk and behaving erratically, spewing profanities and racial slurs or threatening violence.
Still, Ford refused calls to resign and instead checked into a rehabilitation clinic in May 2014 after admitting his alcohol use was out of control. He emerged two months later appearing healthier but still obese and saying he regretted not trying rehab years earlier.
Ford suffered from malignant liposarcoma, a cancer that arises in fat cells in soft tissues, with a large aggressive tumour in his abdomen and a smaller one in his buttock. In October 2015, another tumour was found on his bladder, and he began a new round of chemotherapy.
The interim leader of the federal Conservatives, Rona Ambrose, called Ford “a tireless fighter for the taxpayer and a true advocate for the people he represented.” Ford and his brother Doug hosted a campaign event days before the October election that swept the Conservatives from power.
Ford already had served as a city councillor when he was elected mayor of Toronto in October 2010, winning 47 percent of the vote as his campaign to stop the waste at city hall and strong suburban support overcame Toronto’s liberal downtown voters.
Ford once told Fox News that he hoped to run for prime minister one day.