Rob Ford

6 Toronto mayors who behaved badly before Ford

Although Rob Ford makes headlines for his questionable behaviour more often than his constituents might like, if you look over Toronto's history since its incorporation back in 1834, you'll find that we've had an array of colourful characters as mayors over the years.

There's been a murderer, a thief, a torturer, a traitor and a mayor who beat up councillors he didn't like. Let's take a quick look at some of Toronto's more colourful municipal leaders.

A month before taking office in 1838 as Toronto's fifth mayor, John Powell shot and killed Captain Anthony Anderson. He'd been involved in suppressing William Lyon MacKenzie's rebellion of 1837. After successfully killing one of the rebels, Powell turned the gun on Toronto's first mayor, Mackenzie, but the piece jammed. Powell was (perhaps surprisingly) admired for this act of violence back then and took office shortly thereafter.

Mackenzie, seemingly always the centre of attention, also had his home broken into by another mayor. Henry Sherwood was the 7th mayor of Toronto and reportedly had 18 children. He carried out a home invasion in 1826, breaking into MacKenzie's home and newspaper offices. Along with his drunken mob, he destroyed the printing press and dumped into Toronto harbor.

Imagine if Ford took a swing at Stintz during the transit debate? When Sam McBride was mayor, he was known to beat up councillors he didn't like, swatting them with council agendas.

But that's not even the most extreme form of violence attributed to Toronto's political figures. Consider George Gurnett, who tortured an opposition candidate with tar-and-feathering. The victim was stripped, then had boiling tar poured all over his body. To add insult to injury, he was then rolled in chicken feathers and upon attempting to peel off the feathers afterwards, he'd inevitably peel off his own skin.

In other political malfeasances, Allan Lamport was known for his partying ways. He spent $373,000 over two years on liquor, cigars, gourmet dinners and room service in a Royal York Hotel suite, all paid for by city taxpayers. And considering it was the 1950s, that certainly wasn't considered chump change. I guess you could call Lamport the inventor of the gravy train.

George Monro got the job because of a sex scandal, although it had nothing to do with him (imagine if Adam Giambrone had that kind of twisted luck). The previous mayor, John Powell (the same one who shot and killed the rebel), had put up one of his properties for sublet, to be used as a brothel. Council removed him immediately and Monro got the job by default.

A post in public office goes hand in hand with the criticism of your constituents, and rightly so if you're engaging in corruption, but back then it was a time of lawlessness. And despite all this, no mayor was ever, formally, in jeopardy of losing his title.

Photo by BruceK in the blogTO Flickr pool

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