Rob Ford: Joe Warmington recalls a mayor who loved the city

Rob Ford often had a frosty relationship with members of the media. But there was one journalist who the late city councillor was always fond of: Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington.

Sun columnist was fond of the late mayor

The Toronto Sun's Joe Warmington said there was a fondness between him and the mayor. (CBC)

Rob Ford often had a frosty relationship with members of the media. But there was one journalist who the late city councillor was always fond of: Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington.

Warmington even visited the ailing Ford before he died early on Tuesday. He spoke to the CBC's Here and Now about what he called his "complicated" relationship with the former mayor.

"There was a lot of fondness there. It was professional," Warmington said.

Warmington said Ford liked his work in the Sun because he was fair.

"Most of the rest of the media were not fair. They were out to kill him — politically," said the columnist.

The two go back more than a decade, with Warmington among Ford's inner circle during his entire time in the mayor's office. Ford even affectionately called the columnist 'Scrawler.'

Warmington was a key media figure during the Ford mayoralty. While the then-mayor avoided questions from other news outlets, he'd speak at length to Warmington, who then broke stories about Ford in his column. Critics of the mayor and the Sun newspaper accused Warmington of being the mayor's mouthpiece.

Warmington said he had still not fully processed the death of the longtime city councillor.

"I'm upset," he said. "I haven't had a chance to grieve yet."

Warmington said that he hoped Ford would not be remembered for having used crack cocaine, but for looking out for taxpayers. He said Ford was able to "beat his demons" in drug and alcohol abuse, and that should be remembered just as much as the drug and alcohol use itself.

"He was sure proud of being able to come back [from that]," said Warmington. "That's part of the legacy, too."

The Ford legacy

To Warmington and many others who watched Ford ascend from city councilor to mayor, he was one of a kind.

Warmington said as much in an editorial in the Sun just hours after it was made public that Ford had died. He wrote there would be no one in the province or the country to watch over taxpayer money now that Ford was gone.

"There's only one Rob Ford," Warmington said.

But that's not to say the Ford name won't ever return to city hall. The 20-year veteran of the Toronto Sun hinted Ford's brother, Doug, would be back in council and possibly even in a mayoral election at some point.

"I don't think there's any reason Doug shouldn't step into Ward 2," said Warmington. "He misses the platform city hall provides."

Though he thought Doug Ford would do a good job, Warmington repeated that Rob Ford is irreplaceable, even by his own family. "Doug is about half of the political talent Rob is — and that's a compliment to Doug," said Warmington.

But like many others, the Toronto Sun columnist said he's already made up his mind about how he will remember the former mayor, regardless of whether the Ford name lives on politically.

"I think he should be remembered as somebody who loves the city of Toronto," said Warmington.


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