TORONTO –– Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford has died, according to his chief of staff, Dan Jacobs.
Ford, who had been battling an aggressive form of cancer, served for a decade as a city councillor before being elected mayor in 2010.
The 46-year-old Ford gained international notoriety after a video surfaced in May 2013 that apparently showed him using crack cocaine.
He was re-elected to the City Council in 2014 and was serving in that role at the time of his death.
His family had said yesterday that he was “resting comfortably” in palliative care at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, adding he was sometimes being sedated to help him deal with pain.
Ford was a bombastic and larger-than-life personality who spoke bluntly, traits that helped him craft an image as a champion of the working class.
When running for mayor, he campaigned as an anti-politician who would cut the size of government and stand up to what he called “big-city elites”.
“Toronto’s government has grown bloated and wasteful,” he said in a campaign video. “It’s time to stop the gravy train that provides luxuries and perks to politicians and rich contracts to their friends.”
Ford’s time as mayor, however, was plagued by scandal.
In May 2013 a video surfaced that appeared to show Ford smoking crack cocaine.
Ford denied any wrongdoing and ignored those calling for his resignation.
“I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine,” he said at a news conference.
But as more videos surfaced showing Ford in compromising circumstances, the scrutiny became more intense, and his relationship with the City Council became more acrimonious.
Months later, the admission finally came: He told reporters he “probably” smoked the drug at some point.
“Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine,” he said. “Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors.”
The situation unfolded like a piece of surreal, tragic comedy –– and proved to be perfect fodder for late night TV and comedians around the world.
Ford refused to step aside, even after the City Council stripped him of most of his powers.
He launched a re-election bid and then spent two months in rehab, after which he returned to campaigning. But he had to abandon his re-election bid in September 2014 after being diagnosed with a malignant liposarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer that doctors said spread from the fatty tissue of his abdomen to other parts of his body.
Ford was instead elected councilor for the seat he previously held, Ward 2 –– his birthplace of Etobicoke North. His brother, Doug Ford, who ran for Ford’s old job as mayor, lost.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his condolences today, saying that Ford “fought cancer with courage and determination”.
The Toronto Star reported that flags at Toronto’s City Hall and civic centers will fly at half staff to mark Ford’s death and will remain lowered until his funeral.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city was “reeling” at the news that Ford had died, the newspaper reported.