Rob Ford cancer diagnosis prompts well-wishes from Tory, Chow

Toronto mayoral candidates Olivia Chow and John Tory are offering their well-wishes for the city's cancer-stricken mayor, but are hopeful the election campaign can focus on policies and not individuals.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, 45, diagnosed with pleomorphic liposarcoma

Olivia Chow and John Tory are in the running to be Toronto's next mayor. Coun. Doug Ford entered the race shortly before the nomination deadline expired after his brother Mayor Doug Ford took his name off the ballot. (CBC)

Toronto mayoral candidates Olivia Chow and John Tory are offering their well-wishes for the city's cancer-stricken mayor, but hope the election campaign can focus on policies and not individuals.

Rob Ford's doctor announced the mayor's cancer diagnosis during a Wednesday news conference.

"The diagnosis is a malignant liposarcoma," Dr. Zane Cohen said. Ford and his family were given the diagnosis of a pleomorphic liposarcoma within the past 72 hours, the doctor said, and the mayor will start his first round of chemotherapy within the next two days.

Tory and Chow cancelled tonight's mayoral debate, pending the doctor's announcement. Instead, each candidate held a news conference shortly after Ford's doctor spoke.

"I know what it's like when a family receive bad news, but I also know the strength that the support and the warm wishes can give to you," Chow said. "I know Rob Ford is strong. He's a fighter … I hope he can win this battle against cancer."

John Tory extended his 'best wishes' to Ford and his family after learning of the mayor's cancer diagnosis. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)
Tory echoed her sentiments, extending his "best wishes" to Ford and his family.

Both candidates pushed for a focus on policy in the mayoral campaign, which has been on pause out of respect for the Ford family. 

Ford, who was running for re-election, took his name off the ballot last week, citing health concerns, and opted to run for city councillor in Etobicoke North, Ward 2, where he served before being elected as mayor in 2010. His brother, city councillor Doug Ford, registered to run in the mayoral race in his stead.

Chow said it's important to focus on why the city needs a direction different from the policies of the Ford brothers.

"Let's remember, we're talking about policies, not individuals," she said.

Tory also seemed to want the focus to shift to candidates' platforms.

"It isn't about a person as much as it's about an approach to leadership, it's about a set of policies, a set of ideas," he said. "I think elections should always be a contest of ideas as opposed to anything else."

'I know how important support is,' Chow says

Chow, a cancer survivor, tweeted her support to Ford shortly after learning of his diagnosis.

"Cancer can be beaten and I know how important support is. He has mine," Chow said.

Chow was married to federal NDP Leader Jack Layton, who died after a battle with an undisclosed cancer in 2011. Chow added her own bout with cancer was "straightforward" and did not require chemotherapy.

Olivia Chow said she wore yellow today because it is 'a colour of hope.' (Paul Borkwood/CBC)
Prior to the announcement, both candidates had only positive words for Ford and his family.

Chow said that she chose to wear yellow because it is not only her campaign colour, but also "a colour of hope," representing the daffodil symbol of the Canadian Cancer Association.

"All of our thoughts and positive energy and sentiments are with the Ford family and with Rob Ford in particular," Tory said.

Ford touted as a fighter

Ford's tenacious personality was frequently cited as other politicians passed on their best wishes.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement he is certain Ford "will take on this fight with all of his characteristic tenacity and energy."

Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly called this a "difficult time" for the Ford family, but expressed hope that Ford's personality would help him beat cancer.

He never backs down from a tough fight.- Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly

"Those who know Rob, know that he never backs down from a tough fight," he said in a written statement. "Like every [challenge] he takes on, I know he will fight until he wins."

Doug Ford, who has said Rob Ford remains in good spirits since he was hospitalized last week, affirmed this in a statement Wednesday.

"He remains upbeat and determined to fight this," wrote the elder brother. "Rob has always been so strong for all of us and now I ask us all to be strong for him."

Brothers' campaigns questioned

Both of the Ford brothers remain in the running in Toronto's election. Doug Ford is on the ballot for mayor, while Rob Ford is running for his former city council seat in Ward 2.

News of the younger Ford's cancer brought into question how their campaigns would move forward while dealing with the family crisis.

Dr. Zane Cohen announced that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been diagnosed with malignant liposarcoma, a rare type of cancer. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)
​Since entering the race in his brother's stead, Doug Ford has put campaigning on hold — not attending mayoral debates, while asking the press for some privacy.

However, former mayoral candidate Karen Stintz told CBC News she's spoken with Ford recently and expects his campaign to start "shortly."

"Doug is committed to the race and it will certainly be an interesting next chapter," she said, adding that the Ford family has a desire to protect their legacy and some of the work that Mayor Rob Ford has accomplished during his term.

She also expects to see the younger Ford back at city hall.

"I do expect that Rob will fight this," she said. "He will be back because he will come back to do what he loves to do, which is to fight for the people of Toronto."

Tory seemed to agree that Ford's diagnosis will not necessarily negatively impact his city councillor campaign, saying that plenty of people have undergone chemotherapy and gone on to have productive lives.

"The people will have to make that judgement in the end about him getting elected," he said.