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5 things you didn't know about Rob Ford

Posted by Chris Bateman / August 18, 2014

Rob FordIt was always going to be tough to dig up five totally unknown Rob Ford tidbits. Of all the mayoral candidates, Ford is the only one to have been probed in a bestselling book and countless revealing newspaper and magazine articles. The drugs, the violence, the gaffes, and dubious political moves are, for the most part, common knowledge. With that in mind, it made sense to focus on other parts of Ford's life: his early years, the family business, and his politics.

Born May 28, 1969, Rob Ford attended Scarlett Heights Collegiate and showed a strong interest in playing football. He attended development camps in the U.S., but eventually found himself working at the family business, DECO Labels and Tags, after a brief stint at Carleton University. In 2000, he married Renata Brejniak at the All Saints Roman Catholic Church in Etobicoke. Renata had been briefly married before and the pair dated for several years before their marriage. They have two children: Stephanie (born in 2005,) and Doug--"Dougie"--who was born in 2008.

Rob Ford was first elected to city council in 2000. As staunch and outspoken conservative, Ford was frequently isolated, often attracting attention for hyperbolic outbursts directed at cyclists, Asian people, and one-time nemesis Giorgio Mammoliti. "Outside of council, they don't even talk to me," he told Toronto journalist Brett Ruffell, then a Ryerson University student, in 2004. "They ridicule me and make fun of me. What can you do? I say hi and they walk right by me. What can I do? That's their problem."

"I'll expose every single possible scam that these people are a part of," he continued. "They don't like it, but I don't care. I just worry about the taxpayers want, not what my colleagues want."

His father swam with Marilyn Bell during her famous Lake Ontario crossing
In his youth, Doug Ford, Sr. was a keen athlete. "Standing six feet tall, with his chiselled jaw, thick golden hair, and dashing smile, he looked like a movie star," Robyn Doolittle Robyn Doolittle writes in her book Crazy Town. He loved long distance swimming, and when 16-year-old Marilyn Bell attempted to cross Lake Ontario on Sept. 10, 1954, Ford attempted to swim by her side. "He didn't make it," Doolittle writes. "[He] kept training, and on the side worked as a lifeguard. It was at the local pool that he first caught sight of a beautiful, blond Diane Campbell [the Rob, Doug, Randy, and Diane's mother.]"

In later life, Doug Sr. was the MPP for Etobicoke--Humber from 1995 to 1999 under Mike Harris. "His combative speeches at Queen's Park became something of legend," Doolittle writes. "In one famous incident, he began heckling people who had come to make deputations about not having jobs." Despite fiery incident, Ford commanded respect within the PC party. His single term established the Ford family's political dynasty in Etobicoke.

(Note: On further review, there appears to be some doubt about whether Doug Ford, Sr. took part in the same swim as Marilyn Bell. The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star make no mention of Ford starting the lake swim, which attracted several contenders, including the heavily-favoured Florence Chadwick, Jerry Kerschner, Winnie Roach Leuszler, and Marilyn Bell. Ford may have been in the lake that day, but it's not clear in what capacity. The jury's out on this one.)

Rob's first love was football
Before discovering politics, Rob Ford was intent on pursuing a career as a professional athlete. In Grade 10, Ford was captain of the Scarlett Heights junior football team, though, as Doolittle notes in Crazy Town, the yearbook misidentified him as Doug. Ford attended "a prestigious football camp in the US," Doolittle writes, but wasn't naturally gifted. "He had a lot of heart," a former Scarlett student said.

At Carleton University, where he briefly studied political science before dropping out, Ford tried out for the Ravens' offensive line, but whether he actually appeared for the team is unclear: Ford says he did, but former teammate John Lindsay told Toronto Life in 2012 the pair were frequently benchwarmers. "Robbie was a little guy," he said.

Ford said he didn't ever start a game, but several times appeared as a substitute. Regardless, he turned to coaching, leading the Scarlett Heights Raiders in the 1990s. Famously as mayor, Ford coached the Don Bosco Eagles until being dismissed in May 2013.

Rob was endorsed by the Toronto Star for city council in 2000
Rob Ford the politician emerged in 1997 during an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Gloria Lindsay Luby in Ward 3 Kingsway-Humber. In 2000, promising to run the biggest sign campaign in the ward, Ford ran against incumbent Elizabeth Brown in Ward 2 Etobicoke North. "We suggest Rob Ford, a local businessman who is the son of former area MPP, Doug Ford," The Star wrote. "Incumbent [Brown's] heart is in the right place but she is too often missing in action." Ford ended up capturing 43 percent of the vote to Brown's 31. "The people said they wanted change and they got change," Ford said.

During his first term, Ford opposed funding renovations to Nathan Phillips Square, called funding a program to help squeegee kids "ridiculous," and pushed for cuts to councillors' office expenses, spending just $5 of his $4,917 allowance in the first year. He was also treated twice for kidney stones and earned a mention in the paper for hanging a pre-amalgamation Etobicoke flag in his office upside down.

The Ford family's business, DECO Labels and Tags, is huge
DECO--short for "decorative," but also D for Doug, E for Edwin (co-founder Herriott's first name,) and CO for company--was established by Doug Ford, Sr., then a salesman at a meat packing plant, with the help of friend "Ted" Herriott in the early 1960s. The business specialized in special "pressure sensitive" self-adhesive labels and was a relatively quick success, giving the Ford family status in their Etobicoke community.

By the time Rob Ford became part of the business, DECO had manufacturing plants in Chicago, New Jersey, and 50,000 square foot production facility Toronto. The local plant, according to a 2010 story in Canadian Packaging magazine, generates half the company's revenue, mainly through clients in the food industry.

As a private business, DECO is not obliged to release financial records, so it's hard to put a dollar figure on its level of success. In 2010, a trade magazine put the company's annual sales at about $29 million. Since then, that figure has been put as high as $100 million. On top of that, according to a 2013 Globe and Mail story, the Ford family's real estate holdings are worth in excess of $10 million. Despite owning a stake in a million-dollar company, Ford consistently positions himself as "just an average guy."

Ford says he likes to play board games, pool, and ping-pong in his spare time
The best thing about DJ Deadmau5 taking Rob Ford for a spin in his blue "Purrari" was that it gave us a rare chance to see the mayor relaxed, sober, and unscripted. In the half-hour it took the pair to get Tim Hortons at Leslie and Lake Shore--Ford had trouble having his order of five espressos in one cup understood ("It's good, trust me," he said)--we learned that, apparently, the mayor likes to play Risk (but one of his brothers apparently hates it) and that his family used to enjoy yachting but now spend their time on the lake fishing for salmon.

At the drive-through, Ford found it hysterical that Deadmau5 had to order "a single, a double, and a double" espresso to get the required five shots. He also treated viewers to his thoughts on the lack of suburban planning downtown: "These people down here, you get some councillors that just don't want to have drive-throughs. There are some councillors that do not ... I don't care what anyone says they're car haters. They just don't want cars. They want streetcars and cyclists ... just anti-car."

Photo by Christian Bobak.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.



Bobby / August 18, 2014 at 02:37 pm
And probably still smokes CRACK
McRib / August 18, 2014 at 02:41 pm
He's a Rhodes scholar?
McRib / August 18, 2014 at 02:41 pm
oh, and that Marilyn Bell thing is most likely complete bullshit, there is zero proof of this ever happening, except from the mouths of known liars.
Crazy Town replying to a comment from McRib / August 18, 2014 at 02:47 pm
Are you calling Robyn Doolittle a liar? In her book Crazy Town she stated that Doug Ford Sr. set out to swim across Lake Ontario with Marilyn Bell. Marilyn Bell made it to the other side, Doug Ford Sr. didn't. 15 years later Rob Ford was born.
Bruce Conway / August 18, 2014 at 03:07 pm
I think we're now down to water fights, bobbleheads, phantom money-savings and raccoons.

These are things you normally do when failing Poli Sci 101. Toronto is badly in need of someone to actually run the city.

the lemur replying to a comment from Crazy Town / August 18, 2014 at 03:11 pm
It's a decent book, but if she had done more research she would have found that there is NO evidence Doug Ford ever swam across Lake Ontario, or tried to. Like zero.
Bob But Not Doug / August 18, 2014 at 03:17 pm
Okay, comment poll: on a scale of 1 to 10, how drunk and/or high do you think Rob Ford is *right now*? It's mid-afternoon, so he's probably come down a bit...I'm gonna go with 4.
CW replying to a comment from Bob But Not Doug / August 18, 2014 at 03:31 pm
> It's mid-afternoon, so he's probably come down a bit...I'm gonna go with 4.

No way, he woke up not even 3 hours ago to make it into work for 2. He's probably peaking as we speak.
Rob & Doug Mackenie / August 18, 2014 at 03:37 pm
LOL Rob's first love wasn't football it was beer and wings. His second love was soft drug and being a dealer. His third love was hard drugs... and his current love is making as a$$ out of himself and the good city of Toronto.
steve / August 18, 2014 at 03:48 pm
In someways I am going to miss the Ford brothers when he is gone in October. I have got into the habit of being a lazy thinker. What ever they say I just go with the opposite.
Rocky Wacoon / August 18, 2014 at 03:52 pm
And now Rob says we are pests! I'm a wacoon and that's what we do! I need to find some coon hugging Toronto-ites instead of someone who does not like us!
Justice / August 18, 2014 at 04:46 pm
The Ford family is one of a handful of political family dynasties that we have in this country. They should be cherished not ridiculed.

jen / August 18, 2014 at 05:00 pm
Rob Ford's parents were movie star handsome and beautiful blonde? What the hell happened????
Alan / August 18, 2014 at 05:33 pm
As a home owner I only agree with Rob Ford on one thing, Raccoons are pests around my property too.
#FordMoreYears / August 18, 2014 at 05:39 pm
If Robs guilty of something, arrest him, charge him already! If not leave the man alone.

rocky raccoon / August 18, 2014 at 06:19 pm
Ford is scared of me and my brother's. He scared of raccoons. Ha ha.
Ford is.great

Montgomery triangle is awesome!
Alex L replying to a comment from the lemur / August 18, 2014 at 06:22 pm
I wonder where this Doug Ford swimming myth came from. Hmm, maybe some sort of boast like his kids do all the time? Without basis in any facts?
DavidC / August 18, 2014 at 06:45 pm

"The Ford family is one of a handful of political family dynasties that we have in this country. They should be cherished not ridiculed." Yes, time for a Ford family postage stamp and maybe a TV show.
As Robbie said today (in relation to rear-door-boarding of streetcars but ...) "I don`t believe in honour". I really don`t like to be rude by white trash`` seems to fit.
alanna l. replying to a comment from Crazy Town / August 18, 2014 at 08:13 pm
I believe this story to be a Ford family myth (kind of like Doug Jr's vegetarianism and charity work - the whole bunch are pathological liars that will say anything in the moment.)
There is no record of such an occurrence and I do remember somebody posting their own research showing that it was impossible for the Sr. to physically be there (can't find it though... gahhh!).
Adrian replying to a comment from DavidC / August 18, 2014 at 08:41 pm
Actually it is a well known fact that Rob Ford was approached by a US producer to do a reality show or documentary on him and he turned it down.

Rob Ford is the mayor you love to hate. He reminds you of a guy in high school that you use to despise and your such a grudge holder that you throw your negativity onto Rob. It makes you feel good to know that your above someone like him. Your a proud tight twat.
#FordMoreYears / August 18, 2014 at 08:47 pm
#6 Rob Ford has never lived in community housing or a housing co-op during his political career.
#FordMoreYears / August 18, 2014 at 08:47 pm
#7 Rob Ford has never been caught or arrested in a sexual massage parlor
#FordMoreYears / August 18, 2014 at 08:48 pm
#8 Rob Ford knows better than to meet with a bigot like the Iron Sheik
#FordMoreYears / August 18, 2014 at 08:49 pm
#9 Rob is confident and comfortable enough to attend events like the Caribbean Carnival/Caribana as is, just as himself. Rob does not need costumes or gimmicks to try and fit in.
stoo / August 18, 2014 at 11:34 pm
"The best thing about DJ Deadmau5 taking Rob Ford for a spin in his blue "Purrari" was that it gave us a rare chance to see the mayor relaxed, sober, and unscripted." If by "sober" you mean "not drunk," then, yeah. If by "sober" you mean "not under the influence of any drugs," then watch the bloody video again. Ford is "relaxed" because he's high on *something*. Look at his blank, unfocussed eyes, the wobbly head... High as a frickin' kite on *something*.
Grant / August 19, 2014 at 02:05 am
Hmm, was this article copy-edited? Normally blogTO is on top of things, but at a glance, and leaving aside subjective issues of style:

1. "(born in 2005,)" - punctuation should be outside bracket.
2. "As staunch and outspoken conservative" - missing "a".
3. "Robyn Doolittle Robyn Doolittle writes in her book Crazy Town." - duplicated name.
4. "[the Rob, Doug, Randy, and Diane's mother.]" - delete "the".
5. "Despite fiery incident" - could perhaps be style, but very awkward phrasing.
6. "football camp in the US" - Canadian Press and Associated Press standard is to use periods in geographic abbreviations such as U.S.
7. "DECO had manufacturing plants in Chicago, New Jersey, and 50,000 square foot production facility Toronto." - missing words.

I'm available for copy-editing if you're hiring, Freshdaily. ;)
McRib replying to a comment from alanna l. / August 19, 2014 at 07:42 am
yep, it was more or less debunked on the Urban Toronto Ford thread a few months back. There is basically a 1% chance of it being true.

When the only proof of this happening is from the mouth of Doug Ford Sr and the rest of the Ford clan, take those claims with a huge pinch of salt.
McRib replying to a comment from Crazy Town / August 19, 2014 at 07:45 am
No I am not calling Doolittle a liar, I thought that was obvious. I read her book, there is absolutely no proof of this ever happening, just the word of a family that lies constantly.
McRib / August 19, 2014 at 07:49 am

c'mon BlogTO, you should do better than this.
Jamie / August 19, 2014 at 08:55 am
Why is Doug Ford Sr. a fact about Rob Ford I don't get it? Couldn't find 5 facts about Rob so you had to throw one in about Doug Ford Sr? Doug Ford Sr is not Rob Ford and the fact wether true or not takes place 15 years before Rob was even born.
Kevin / August 19, 2014 at 09:21 am
Seriously, please edit this. Rob's dad never swam across Lake Ontario.
the lemur replying to a comment from Alex L / August 19, 2014 at 09:43 am
There may be some connection to Marilyn Bell, but like many family legends it got embellished and exaggerated over time. Most accounts of Doug Ford Sr swimming Lake Ontario don't even get his age right for the time that Marilyn Bell did it.
the lemur replying to a comment from #FordMoreYears / August 19, 2014 at 09:49 am
Chow and Layton didn't ever live in 'community housing' (assuming you mean something like TCHC and not a mixed-income co-op, which, as the name suggests, requires people of different income levels).

Ford knows better than to pose for a photo with a white supremacist (who doesn't even live in Canada) dressed in a WW2-era Latvian Nazi collaborator uniform ... no, wait, he DOESN'T know better than to do that.

Ford attends events like the Caribbean Carnival 'as himself' because in life he is not comfortable ever wearing anything but a suit or maybe a football jacket.
We need to talk about Kevin replying to a comment from Kevin / August 19, 2014 at 10:23 am
No where has the Ford family ever said he swam across lake Ontario is said he attempted to swim across with Marilyn Bell. An attempt could be driving down to lake Ontario and not actually getting into the water. It was never stated ANYWHERE that he swam all the way across lake Ontario.
#FordMoreDumb / August 19, 2014 at 10:35 am
#1-#9 stupid things Ford has done? Irrelevant, when the number is infinite.
Irwin Mimico / August 19, 2014 at 11:25 am
The user #fordmoreyears is making valid points. Rob is a real mans-man!
#FordMoreDumb / August 19, 2014 at 11:36 am
Charge him? Why bother? He's already been convicted where it matters. The evidence was presented, in public, by one Robert Fordfucker.
Irwin Mimico von Shtupped / August 19, 2014 at 11:39 am
Ford is a "mans-man? Are you a fudgepacker? Sorry to co-opt your terminology, butt...
Mansman / August 19, 2014 at 11:42 am
Mansman is an ole Mimico Indian tribe name which translates as "Dumblowhard-Who-Lies-To-Fools".
Randy replying to a comment from Irwin Mimico von Shtupped / August 19, 2014 at 01:11 pm
Please don't use terms like fudgepacker or your proving yourself to be bigot as well. Some of us are passionate about the same sex.
Gus / August 19, 2014 at 01:14 pm
Rob Ford did the ice bucket challenge!!! And has challenged Jimmy Kimmel to do it as well and Jimmy has accepted!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rob Ford does ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ and calls out Kimmel, Wynne and Harper to do the same

Jimmy Kimmel accepts Rob Ford's Ice Bucket Challenge
Sandy / August 19, 2014 at 01:20 pm
Where are they now? Olivia Chow
The internet says so so its true / August 19, 2014 at 01:31 pm
NDP leader Jack Layton lived in subsidized housing with $120,000 income
The internet says so so its true replying to a comment from McRib / August 19, 2014 at 01:35 pm
Ahh Cool McRib found some unaccredited site that says Doug Sr. did NOT swim across lake Ontario - if its on the internet its TRUE!!!!
Gary / August 19, 2014 at 01:37 pm
Check out fattie in all his glory!!

Time for Change / August 19, 2014 at 01:39 pm
Really, only attention-whoring idiots do the ice bucket challenge.
Trudy / August 19, 2014 at 01:52 pm
NONE OF THIS MATTERS! In a couple of month we'll have our new mayor Olivia Chow in place and she will ban handguns. Toronto will be come a safer gentler more relaxed city.

Don't let the anger towards Rob get you, I know how it feels inside and doctors have stated that stress can cause an early death.
Time for Reality / August 19, 2014 at 02:00 pm
So this is where Toronto's weak and pathetic gather.

Why can't you just stop going on and on and on about Rob Ford? Nothing of value going on in your life? Are you living such an unfulfilled life that you need to make Rob Ford the centre of your attention 24/7?

Rob Ford the mayor you LOVE to hate.
stephen / August 19, 2014 at 03:09 pm
It mustve been love, but Chows over now!

Amazing Robbies polling back in second position and Chow has dropped way down from first place to third place.
Nothing but Rob 24/7 / August 19, 2014 at 03:58 pm
I dedicate my life to you, Rob Ford!
Church of Rob / August 19, 2014 at 04:00 pm
Worship Him! Like Irwin does!
Dear Irwin Mimico / August 19, 2014 at 05:29 pm
Apologize to Randy....NOW!
Fred replying to a comment from Church of Rob / August 19, 2014 at 05:41 pm
That's why he's currently in second place. Many have already changed their minds on Olivia Chow. HA HA. She had first place, then lost it, your not getting those voters back now Olivia!!!

Olivia doesn't have a real campaign platform. The only thing she's stands for is anyone but Ford and that equals = JOHN TORY for the win!
#FordMoreYears / August 19, 2014 at 05:43 pm
Robs one of us. He’s like us. He’s fallible like the rest of us, and we’re not judgemental people.

October 27th!!
Xavier / August 19, 2014 at 06:11 pm
Anyone know the date of the next Ford Fest? It always looks like a good time, I'd love to go to the next one and meet Rob. He seems so approachable, the others don't seem that approachable especially Olivia Chow she's always on the attack at the debates and has a hard time answering questions directly.
Drew / August 19, 2014 at 06:13 pm
Did Jack Layton and Olivia Chow Live in Subsidized Housing?

The answer is yes—but it's complicated.
Feeble Fordfucker / August 19, 2014 at 07:26 pm
Leave Ff alone....don't vote for the feeb, please! His Mommy won't!
Rob "Numbnuts" Ford / August 19, 2014 at 07:27 pm
Numbnuts? Say no more!
Rob "Shit4Brains" Ford / August 19, 2014 at 07:29 pm
Wha? Lie? OK Doug, I will!
#FordMoreYears / August 19, 2014 at 09:21 pm
#FordMoreYears in second place. Olivia is in third.
#FordMoreYears in second place. Olivia is in third.
#FordMoreYears in second place. Olivia is in third.
#FordMoreYears in second place. Olivia is in third.
#FordMoreYears in second place. Olivia is in third.

#FordLessVotesLoser! / August 19, 2014 at 11:21 pm
LOSER IS AS LOSER DOES BUTTWAD replying to a comment from #FordLessVotesLoser! / August 19, 2014 at 11:45 pm
UMMM FORD NATION is passionate about the city. All the other leaders and parties have extreme voter apathy. Blame yourselves
FORD IS AS FORD DOES BUTTWADDESS / August 20, 2014 at 02:21 am
FORD is passionate about his crack & lying. All the other leaders & parties tell the truth & don't use drugs. Blame Ford for being CORRUPTFORD!
Rob Liecorrupt Ford / August 20, 2014 at 02:25 am
I never tell the truth; I use drugs & drink; I'm stupid- I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm the worst mayor in the history of the world!
Rob Liecorrupt Fordfucker / August 20, 2014 at 02:30 am
I can't find my huge ass with both hands! Has anybody seen it? How about you, Irwin? I mean you're ALWAYS staring at it!
Gayle / August 20, 2014 at 07:27 am
We love you Robbie! Keep fighting the good fight for us. Your a hero for the real Torontonians!
Fayle / August 20, 2014 at 08:46 am
We hate you Rubby! Keep losing 'n lyin' for your children! You use heroin heroically and buy drugs for every real addict!
Gus replying to a comment from Fayle / August 20, 2014 at 09:33 am
Dear Robbie please win this fight for us. There are too many New Jack City Cornballs that are all over this city spreading their materialistic attitude pretending to be Nicole Ritche, Paris Hilton, Joaquin Phoenix, etc. etc.

Stop the materialism, Stop the Gravy.
Puss / August 20, 2014 at 01:22 pm
Dear Rubby please lose for your children and people of Toronto. There too many numbnuts that are all over this city spreading their trashy redneck American tea party ideas pretending to be Barry Goldwater, Rand Paul, John Birch and you and your throwback family. Stop the stupidity, Stop the FORD/DECO GRAVY TRAIN, you corrupt, dumb blockhead!
Alanna the Whore / August 20, 2014 at 03:01 pm
Robbie, I'm charging you double from now on. IN ADVANCE, MAYOR IMPOTENT BORE!
Hey Asshole...Did you know Jack Layton's dead? / August 20, 2014 at 09:42 pm
Yeah he is. Ford's not. Get it? Stop making yourself look so stupid.
Isn't Ford ineligible to run? / August 23, 2014 at 12:16 pm
The Municial Act excludes huge, jiggly, infected, contagious, pus-dripping assholes, so...
#FordLoserOct27! / August 25, 2014 at 05:20 pm
Ford's last of three, which will get you elected dog catcher! Let's see you catch dogs while you're high, Fordfucker!
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