TORONTO – At the height of his controversy, Rob Ford made international headlines. But now, one city councillor is offering his insights on the man behind those headlines.
Councillor John Filion sat two seats down from Ford for 10 years in council chambers.
The councillor for Ward 23 (Willowdale) recalls Ford as being very quiet, minus the occasional council outburst.
“There is a lot of time during council meetings where you try and talk to the people around you to pass the time,” Filion said.
“I noticed it was really difficult to talk to Rob. It was hard to engage him in a conversation. He’d have these angry outbursts and then he’d kind of sit there like he was in a bubble, completely in his own world.”
Filion recalls one council meeting in particular when he decided to spark up a conversation with Ford about football.
“All of a sudden he was totally different and then I invited him to be in a football pool –I didn’t even have one, I just created it to be friends with Rob Ford,” Filion said.
Filion says the impromptu pool lead to a relationship built on the two politicians passion for sports, and for family.
As Filion sees it “football is kind of the introduction to Rob’s world and once you get in there you relate to him just like a regular person, you find the regular person in him.”
Filion and Ford are not without their disagreements.
In Nov. 2013, after Ford’s shocking crack admission, Filion orchestrated the removal of Ford’s powers as Mayor.
Filion was then booted from the weekly football pool he helped found. But the tension didn’t last long.
“Rob and I kind of bonded in this strange way,” Filion said.
“Even after I sought to remove his powers – and I thought, he’s never going to talk to me again – he was mad for a month or so and wanted me back in the football pool.”
The title of Filion’s newly released book, The Only Average Guy, is ripped from Ford’s own mouth. As Filion explains, they’re words Rob Ford uses to describe his place on Toronto City Council.
“He kind of is the only average guy. He’s average to an extreme,” Filion said.
“He’s the person that the other average people look to as their champion…They look at him and they go ‘that guy is just like me.’”
Filion is used to residents coming up to him and affirming their support for the controversial councillor.
He recalls an encounter with a man who called himself ‘the biggest Rob Ford fan ever.’
“He told me, ‘(Rob Ford is) just so average, he drives an average car, he has an average house, he speaks like an average person.’”
“And I said, shouldn’t the mayor be above average? And he said ‘no, no – average is like the regular person out there. The mayor should be average.’”
Filion hopes readers will understand people are always more complicated than they appear.
“People aren’t just one-dimensional … Everyone’s got multiple sides to them and don’t just look for the obvious … look for who they really are underneath the masks and security and the false exterior,” he said.
Filion’s book, The Only Average Guy: Inside the Uncommon World of Rob Ford, attempts to offer a sympathetic account of the Rob Ford saga, revealing a man who is more complicated than he appears.
The book is now available in stores.