There will be no “Rob Ford Memorial Stadium” in Toronto.
City council rejected the proposal late Wednesday night to rename Centennial Park Stadium after the late Ward 2 Etobicoke North city councillor whose turbulent 2010-2014 term as mayor included revelations he smoked crack cocaine and lied about it for months.
Mayor John Tory tabled the proposal, along with recommendations for consultation, saying that he knew it was controversial.
The proposal came at the request of the Ford family, Tory noted. “In all of my dealings as mayor … I try to be generous and to put politics to the side,” the mayor, who beat Rob Ford’s brother Doug to become mayor in 2014, told council.
Tory said he was “erring on the side of generosity.” He said Ford had his supporters, who saw him as a diligent public servant but, Tory said, he also recognized that Ford as mayor had done things “hurtful” to many people in Toronto.
The only councillor to speak against the proposal, Jon Burnside, said he was doing so out of a conviction that council should not name things after politicians, whose job by definition is to help people.
Councillor Joe Cressy made a successful motion to split Tory’s proposal into two parts — one specifically for the renaming of the stadium after Rob Ford and another that community members be consulted on ways to honour the memories of Pam McConnell and Ron Moeser, the other former councillors who died this council term.
Council voted 11-24 on the Rob Ford proposal, while passing the latter one.
Cressy said after the vote: “I got along with Rob and I considered him a colleague and I was devastated to hear that he passed so young, but considering many of the things that took place in his time as mayor I didn’t think it appropriate to name a kids’ football stadium after him.”
Rob Ford was councillor for Ward 2 Etobicoke North for a decade, becoming equally famous for his hard work solving homeowners’ problems and his outrageous pronouncements and behaviour. Elected mayor in 2010, he sidelined his left-of-centre opponents and started pushing through a conservative agenda that included targeting low tax hikes and exacting concessions from city unions.
But his mayoralty spiralled into scandal that made worldwide headlines after the Star revealed his substance abuse, which included smoking crack cocaine with gang members and public alcohol abuse. His football coaching and charitable foundation to help schools start football programs also generated headlines and he was banned from coaching by the Toronto District School Board.
Ford went to rehab and was mounting a re-energized mayoral re-election bid when a cancer diagnosis forced him to seek his old council seat, instead. He died in March 2016.
Last week, after the Star revealed Tory’s renaming proposal, Doug Ford, who served as Ward 2 councillor during his brother’s mayoral term and who plans to challenge Tory for the mayor’s seat in 2018, said: “Politics is politics. We’ve known John (Tory) and his family for over 25 years; he used to be a broadcaster and would kind of go after us once in a while, so, it’s politics.”
“You’ve got to separate politics and something like this; it’s always a sensitive area for anyone, so we’re going to carry on.
“We’re grateful. We’re appreciative, and we’ve very honoured.”
– Toronto Star