1 As a coun­cil­lor, the only thing he wanted was to run the city of Toronto. Now he has the power to ex­ert his will, and he’s tor­pe­do­ing ev­ery­thing his en­e­mies hold dear. In­side the rule-break­ing, foun­da­tion­shak­ing world of Doug Ford

Toronto Life - - The Fifty Most Influential 2018 -

Ja­son McBride By Pho­to­graPh by Markian Lo­zowchuk

IIn the weeks af­ter Doug Ford be­came On­tario’s 26th pre­mier, there seemed to be two men gov­ern­ing the prov­ince.

If you were one of the 3.4 mil­lion On­tar­i­ans who had voted against him, you got ex­actly what you ex­pected: a hos­tile, bull-headed, slash-and-burn Tory bent on de­stroy­ing any progress—on the en­vi­ron­ment, on gen­der equal­ity, on work­ers’ rights—the pre­vi­ous govern­ment might have made over the last few years. “Prom­ise made, prom­ise kept” be­came, to lib­er­als, a headache-in­duc­ing, gut-churning drum­beat.

But if you were a con­ser­va­tive sup­porter, you were pleas­antly sur­prised to see a leader of un­com­mon in­ten­tion and ef­fi­ciency. Few Tories ex­pected the in­ex­pe­ri­enced, volatile Ford to make so many de­ci­sions so quickly. Fewer still ex­pected him to put to­gether such an ex­pe­ri­enced cab­i­net, one that in­cluded his foes from the lead­er­ship fight, Caro­line Mul­roney and Chris­tine El­liott.

Once Ford ar­rived at Queen’s Park, he con­tin­ued build­ing the brand that got him there. As pre­mier, he could fi­nally re­claim the Ford legacy, make vot­ers for­get the hu­mil­i­a­tion and scan­dal that had long tar­nished the fam­ily name. He was still oafish, with a free­wheel­ing, hard-charg­ing style. But au­thor­ity seemed to tem­per frus­tra­tions that had pre­vi­ously gov­erned his po­lit­i­cal life. And un­like at city hall, he didn’t need to build con­sen­sus. He had the power, and he seized it with zeal.

Then, in late July, af­ter throw­ing fast­ball af­ter fast­ball, Ford sud­denly came up with a spit­ter. The two Doug Fords—the steam­roller and the scalpel—fused into one. The new boss let ev­ery­one know, with char­ac­ter­is­tic bom­bast, that he was the boss. He told his staff that he was go­ing to cut Toronto city coun­cil in half. And he was go­ing to do it im­me­di­ately. It may not have been a cam­paign prom­ise, but shrewd Ford-watch­ers shouldn’t have been sur­prised. “If I ever get to the pro­vin­cial level of pol­i­tics,” he wrote in his 2016 book, Ford Na­tion, “mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs is the first thing I would want to change.”

Rob Ford had wanted to cut coun­cil as soon as he be­came mayor, but he lacked sup­port, both from the pro­vin­cial govern­ment and coun­cil it­self. And that was the prob­lem, ac­cord­ing to Doug. You couldn’t get any­thing done at city hall. It was bloated, dys­func­tional, in­ef­fec­tual. If there were fewer squab­bling coun­cil­lors, the new pre­mier be­lieved, maybe the Scar­bor­ough sub­way would be built by now. Maybe there wouldn’t be so much traf­fic when he drove in to Queen’s Park. Plus, he said, it would save money—about $25 mil­lion in coun­cil­lor salaries and staff over four years.

But many peo­ple be­lieve that Ford’s real mo­tive was to set­tle scores. For years, other coun­cil­lors had rou­tinely, pub­licly mocked the Ford broth­ers’ ideas, ac­cused them of racism and ho­mo­pho­bia and in­com­pe­tence, and even­tu­ally stripped Rob of his may­oral pow­ers. Who was laugh­ing now? One city staffer ex­plained it to me thusly: “He’s say­ing, ‘You walked all over my brother and were un­kind to him and now I’m go­ing to get you.’ ”

Ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple sources, a turf bat­tle emerged over the de­ci­sion. Jenni Byrne, Ford’s prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary and a for­mer Harper cam­paign man­ager, ob­jected. Toronto’s in the mid­dle of a cam­paign, she said. It’s not right. They could do this later, when it wouldn’t be so dis­rup­tive. Kory Ten­ey­cke, who had been Ford’s cam­paign man­ager, thought it was bad for the brand. There were rea­sons peo­ple liked him, he sug­gested, and there were rea­sons peo­ple didn’t. This fit into the rea­sons-peo­ple-didn’t bucket, so why were they do­ing it? (Ten­ey­cke de­clined to com­ment on this, ex­cept to say, “The ad­vice I gave the pre­mier is the ad­vice I gave the pre­mier.”)

But Ford was un­de­terred. On July 30, the govern­ment tabled the Bet­ter Lo­cal Govern­ment Act, cut­ting Toronto’s wards from 47 to 25. In Toronto, there were howls of out­rage. Many left­lean­ing coun­cil­lors de­cried Ford’s med­dling, call­ing it reck­less and anti-demo­cratic. They (ac­cu­rately) pre­dicted that the elec­tion would be­come a mu­nic­i­pal Hunger Games, pit­ting long-time in­cum­bents against one an­other. Ford’s al­lies on coun­cil—Gior­gio Mam­moliti, Vin­cent Crisanti, Ford’s nephew, Michael—were, un­sur­pris­ingly, in favour of the move. Mayor John Tory, with whom Ford has long had a com­bat­ive, if mu­tu­ally use­ful, re­la­tion­ship, con­demned the leg­is­la­tion, al­beit too weakly for some.

When Ford threat­ened to in­voke, for the first time in On­tario’s his­tory, the not­with­stand­ing clause of the Char­ter, the re­sis­tance ex­tended to sur­pris­ing cor­ners. Amnesty In­ter­na­tional con­demned the use of the clause. Con­ser­va­tive elders like Brian Mul­roney and Bill Davis fol­lowed. Nick Kou­valis, the po­lit­i­cal strate­gist who helped run cam­paigns for John Tory and Rob Ford, had told me Doug was go­ing to be a great pre­mier. Dur­ing the coun­cil cri­sis, he called me and, with an ex­as­per­ated, dis­be­liev­ing laugh, asked if he could amend his quote. He went on to say that Ford was blowing his chance to clean up his fam­ily name, to show ev­ery­body that he was strong and com­pe­tent. But Ford does not back down, and by the end of Septem­ber, Toronto had 25 wards.

Dur­ing his lead­er­ship cam­paign, Ford bor­rowed Rob’s for­mer theme song, “Eye of the Tiger,” to use at ral­lies. Af­ter he won, he had an orig­i­nal song com­posed, some­thing more ex­plic­itly on­mes­sage: “For the Peo­ple.” And yet it was clear, even in vic­tory, even with a strong ma­jor­ity and a party united be­hind him, that he still loved the thrill of the fight.

Ford has al­ways been a big guy, never shy about phys­i­cally in­tim­i­dat­ing peo­ple, be they coun­cil col­leagues, staffers or jour­nal­ists. At 54, he is both big­ger and softer than he used to be, his physique more of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor than of­fen­sive line­backer. Like Tony So­prano, he leads with his belly. His golden hair, which he wore in a feath­ered mul­let in high school, is now a cou­ple of shades closer to plat­inum. His face is lined, and when he smiles, which he does with great fre­quency, deep grooves etch his jowls, mak­ing it ap­pear as if he’s wear­ing a Doug Ford mask over a Rob Ford mask. Dur­ing Ques­tion Pe­riod and pub­lic an­nounce­ments, he em­ploys an evan­gel­i­cal or­a­tor­i­cal style that doesn’t so much hide his char­ac­ter­is­tic ver­bal fum­bling as turn it into a so­porific drone. His favoured form of ad­dress dur­ing the cam­paign—“Folks”—has been re­placed by the more fa­mil­iar, if equally cloy­ing, “Friends.”

“Fam­ily” is an­other of Ford’s favourite f-words. Fam­ily means Doug and his own fam­ily—Karla, his wife of 30 years, an an­i­mal lover, fit­ness buff and for­mer cheer­leader; their four blond daugh­ters, Krista, Kayla, Kara and Kyla; and their four cats. It also means, per­haps more im­por­tantly, the ex­tended Ford fam­ily. The late pa­tri­arch, Doug Sr., of course, was a boot­strap­ping busi­ness­man who made mil­lions with the com­pany he co-founded, Deco La­bels. His wife, Diane, was dot­ing and de­mand­ing. Ford likes to re­fer to his father, whom he reveres, as a “straight shooter.” Doug Sr.’s chil­dren, to vary­ing de­grees, were not. From the be­gin­ning, Doug Jr. was the sur­vivor. Rob might have built Ford Na­tion, pot­hole by pot­hole, phone call by phone call, but Doug knew how to ex­ploit it. “Doug some­how emerged out of that fam­ily and be­came a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man,” says John Fil­ion, a city coun­cil­lor and the au­thor of The Only Av­er­age Guy, a bi­og­ra­phy of the Fords. “I think you can plunk him down any­where in the world, and he would fig­ure out not only how to sur­vive, but how to thrive.”

If you ask Doug, he never wanted to be a politi­cian. It’s a para­dox that lies at the heart of the Ford fam­ily—which is an un­de­ni­able po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty. Doug Sr., who served as a back­bencher in Mike Har­ris’s govern­ment be­tween 1995 and 1999, had to be strong-armed into run­ning for of­fice. (Doug did the strong-arm­ing af­ter lis­ten­ing to his dad com­plain about Bob Rae.) Rob only ever equated pol­i­tics with waste and mis­man­age­ment. Doug felt the same, and his sin­gle term as a coun­cil­lor only in­ten­si­fied his con­tempt for the pro­fes­sion. “I can’t stand politi­cians,” he once said. “It’s crazy. We’re anti-politi­cian. But that’s just the way it is. It’s weird. I can’t fig­ure it out.”

To make pol­i­tics palat­able, then, the Fords com­pul­sively cast the job in the busi­ness terms they un­der­stand best: cus­tomer ser­vice and com­pe­ti­tion. Doug Sr. set the tone. He was

lov­ing but ec­cen­tric, tough and im­pos­si­ble to please. It made the boys hy­per­com­pet­i­tive—with oth­ers but also with each other. When they played foot­ball or hockey, they played to win, and when they won, they rubbed it in your face. Af­ter amal­ga­ma­tion, Doug Sr. lost the nom­i­na­tion for his par­lia­men­tary seat to Chris Stock­well, a po­lit­i­cal vet­eran and mem­ber of the estab­lish­ment that the Fords de­spised. From then on, no mat­ter how much power they ac­crued, the Fords al­ways iden­ti­fied as po­lit­i­cal out­siders.

Two key el­e­ments of the Ford po­lit­i­cal strat­egy are ac­ces­si­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity. As a coun­cil­lor, Rob was known for his at­ten­tion to his con­stituents. That stren­u­ous trans­parency did not ex­tend to the me­dia, and much of his life was de­lib­er­ately hid­den from the pub­lic. Doug has con­tin­ued both tra­di­tions. While cam­paign­ing this year, he handed out his card to ev­ery plant worker and rink rat he met. In Septem­ber, he re­ceived 8,750 calls from con­stituents. He con­tin­ues to make pub­lic ap­pear­ances, some­times sev­eral a week. But, like Rob, he also re­fuses to share his sched­ule with the me­dia. His pre­ferred net­work is On­tario News Now, a faux news chan­nel that tri­umphantly broad­casts high­lights from Ford pressers and events, funded with tax­payer dol­lars and pro­duced by Lyn­d­sey Van­stone, a PC deputy com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor who once en­tered a con­test to be­come Char­lie Sheen’s as­sis­tant. This fall, Ford’s team packed press con­fer­ences with young staffers who would drown out re­porters’ ques­tions with their ap­plause. Be­fore I started re­port­ing this story, I met with Laryssa Waler, Ford’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions. She wasn’t sure if she’d let me in­ter­view him, ex­plain­ing she was torn be­tween want­ing the pub­lic to know the “real” Doug and pro­tect­ing him from the Toronto me­dia, which had been un­kind to him. My sub­se­quent in­ter­view re­quests were de­clined, and cab­i­net min­is­ters and staffers were equally un­re­spon­sive.

When you do get him alone, Ford is a tire­less ex­tro­vert who os­cil­lates be­tween dis­arm­ing charisma and cal­cu­lated men­ace. At the photo shoot for this story, he said, with a tight smile, that if he didn’t like the pic­tures, he would take the pho­tog­ra­pher “out like a cheap date.” As a kid, Diane has said, he was a schmoozer who could talk his way out of any­thing. At Deco, he kept a man cave, out­fit­ted with a full bar (though Doug doesn’t drink), sports mem­o­ra­bilia and a pool ta­ble, where he would rou­tinely host bud­dies like Jus­tice of the Peace Bobby Hun­dal and Toronto Po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Ron Tav­erner. On the cam­paign trail, he held ral­lies with 600 peo­ple in at­ten­dance and posed for pic­tures with ev­ery fan. One ac­quain­tance re­counted a story of Ford, head­ing in an OPP cruiser to a meet­ing at Jane and Finch, stop­ping the car when he saw a cou­ple of teenagers hang­ing out on a street cor­ner. He jumped out, asked the kids what they were do­ing, if they had jobs. What sounded pa­ter­nal­is­tic to me was, to this per­son’s mind, ev­i­dence of Ford’s ease with just about ev­ery­body he meets. “He feels that he can per­suade any­body to get on the right track.”

On­stage, his folksi­ness can be ham-fisted and ex­ces­sive. Where other con­ser­va­tives might tout Ayn Rand as an in­spi­ra­tion, his philo­soph­i­cal lodestar is Dale Carnegie. But one-on-one, Ford is ap­peal­ingly joc­u­lar and con­ge­nial. “He’s a born sales­man, so he has that per­sona—the big smile, the glad-hand­ing, the back­slap­ping,” says Peter Mil­czyn, the for­mer city coun­cil­lor and Lib­eral min­is­ter of hous­ing. As with any sales­man, once he gets what he wants, he can turn off that charm abruptly. John Fil­ion, who calls Ford the sec­ond most com­pli­cated per­son he’s ever met (num­ber one was Rob) says, “He can be a very pleas­ant guy to have lunch with, and then an­other time the big fist will come down in your face.” He can be in­fan­tile, thin-skinned, a man who holds a grudge for­ever and also a man who loves, who needs, to be liked. He came out of his first meet­ing with Trudeau fu­ri­ous at the prime min­is­ter’s con­de­scen­sion: “That son-of-abitch got up and said, ‘Do you know about the Geneva Con­ven­tion?’ That son-of-a-bitch lec­tur­ing me?”

And yet this cu­ri­ous com­bi­na­tion of qual­i­ties is al­most ex­actly what so many peo­ple seem to want in a politi­cian—lov­able some­times, a tough guy at oth­ers. A scrap­per who tells it like it is. Doug has said that Rob’s un­do­ing was that he was “too real.” As far as vot­ers are con­cerned, Doug is just real enough.

The Fords have oc­ca­sion­ally been called the Kennedys of Eto­bi­coke, a fatu­ous com­par­i­son that Doug him­self scorns not so much for its in­ac­cu­racy as for its whiff of elitism. But if you want to com­pare him to any­one in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, imag­ine a fig­ure equal parts for­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, pug­na­cious Prov­i­dence mayor Buddy Cianci and, sure, why not, Don­ald Trump. The Trump com­par­isons are a lit­tle too easy, but they’re not off-base. In fact, Ford likened him­self and his brother to the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent in 2015. “Don­ald Trump is bor­row­ing from us,” he told the Na­tional Post. Both Ford and Trump are larger-than-life dem­a­gogues who hi­jacked po­lit­i­cal par­ties that didn’t want them. Both have been, more or less, suc­cess­ful busi­ness­men, with sil­ver spoons jammed into their mouths by dom­i­neer­ing fa­thers. Both are ag­gres­sively nar­cis­sis­tic yet per­plex­ingly in­se­cure. Both have a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with the me­dia. And both pos­sess a fluid, some­times con­tra­dic­tory, ide­ol­ogy that shifts be­tween con­ser­vatism, pop­ulism and lib­er­tar­i­an­ism.

If Ford bears some re­sem­blance to Trump, what’s far more im­por­tant is how lit­tle he re­sem­bles Pa­trick Brown. This time last year, Brown was leader of the On­tario PC Party and al­most cer­tainly the next pre­mier of On­tario. But he wasn’t quite who the Tories thought they were get­ting. Once he be­came leader, he tried to move the party closer to the cen­tre. He was in favour of rev­enue-neu­tral car­bon pric­ing, came to sup­port Wynne’s up­dated sex-ed cur­ricu­lum, marched in Toronto’s Pride pa­rade. “Com­ing out of the Pa­trick Brown ex­pe­ri­ence,” Kory Ten­ey­cke

When Pa­trick Brown ap­peared in a photo with Ford, John Tory would text him to say, “What are you do­ing?”

says, “there was a feel­ing among a lot of party mem­bers that they had been part of a gi­ant bait-and-switch.”

Brown viewed Ford as a buf­foon­ish ir­ri­tant, some­one to ap­pease to keep Ford Na­tion on side. (Ev­ery time Brown ap­peared in a photo with Ford, John Tory would text him to say, “What are you do­ing?”) Seek­ing to cap­ture the large vot­ing bloc that the Fords rep­re­sented, he backed Doug’s flir­ta­tion with an MPP run in Eto­bi­coke North. But when Ford pub­licly praised Trump, Brown was livid. He pulled his sup­port.

When Brown was ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct and forced to re­sign, he in­sisted that the al­le­ga­tions were false and that he was the tar­get of a smear cam­paign or­ches­trated by his ad­ver­saries. By that time, Ford had an­nounced his in­ten­tion to run against John Tory for mayor again, but af­ter Brown’s res­ig­na­tion, a big­ger mar­ket op­por­tu­nity emerged. He could run for leader, ac­com­plish some­thing that nei­ther his father nor brother could. Shrewdly, Ford im­me­di­ately branded him­self as the anti-Brown. While Caro­line Mul­roney and Chris­tine El­liott struck more moder­ate po­si­tions, Ford tacked right, dou­bling down on is­sues closer to the hearts of so­cial con­ser­va­tives. For a large part of Ford’s coali­tion—which in­cludes both old-school, white con­ser­va­tives and a re­li­gious, multi-eth­nic, lower-in­come pop­u­la­tion—this was red meat.

Brown had ban­ished far-right fig­ures like Tanya Granic Allen and the evan­gel­i­cal leader Charles McVety; Ford brought them back into the fold. Granic Allen, a Catholic, the pres­i­dent of Par­ents as First Ed­u­ca­tors and an out­spo­ken so­cial con­ser­va­tive, was the top choice of the Cam­paign Life Coali­tion, a na­tional group that works to nom­i­nate and elect can­di­dates who op­pose abor­tion at all lev­els of govern­ment. The group claims he as­sured them that he sup­ported their var­i­ous de­mands to de­fund abor­tion, re­quire parental con­sent be­fore a mi­nor re­ceives an abor­tion, and scrap Wynne’s sex-ed cur­ricu­lum. He ap­peared at sev­eral church ral­lies with McVety, whose po­si­tions on cap-and-trade (hated it) and the sex-ed cur­ricu­lum (like­wise) Ford took as his own. At a rally at a Howard Johnson in Lind­say, he told sup­port­ers, “I be­lieve ed­u­ca­tion should start at home. It shouldn’t start with the Lib­eral ide­ol­ogy breath­ing down our backs day in and day out…. The govern­ment thinks they’re smarter than us.” In Fe­bru­ary, he was anointed by a pas­tor at the Prayer Palace, an evan­gel­i­cal megachurch in North York.

Ford’s chum­mi­ness with the re­li­gious right was both op­por­tunis­tic and con­ve­nient. While his op­po­si­tion to cap-and-trade and sex ed might have been by-prod­ucts of his knee-jerk dis­taste for taxes and govern­ment en­croach­ment, the con­sen­sus, among those who know him, is that he’s not a so­cial con­ser­va­tive. He’s never been pub­licly re­li­gious, and he will for­ever be as­so­ci­ated with his fam­ily’s well-doc­u­mented his­tory of law­less­ness. “It was a po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion, with­out ques­tion, to em­brace peo­ple like McVety be­cause that’s a huge vot­ing bloc,” says one Tory in­sider.

In the end, the lead­er­ship race was a squeaker. El­liott won both the pop­u­lar vote and more rid­ings, but Ford had more elec­toral votes, which de­cided the con­test. Eighty-three per cent of Granic Allen’s sup­port­ers went to Ford on the sec­ond bal­lot. At his ac­cep­tance speech, Ford asked her to join him on the podium. He shook her hand, thanked her. She was pleased to see the is­sues that drove her be­ing se­ri­ously taken up by Ford, she told me, what­ever his per­sonal be­liefs. Af­ter­ward, he urged her to run as a can­di­date. When he be­came pre­mier, he said, he’d give her a job in cab­i­net.

In late March, Kath­leen Wynne was the most un­pop­u­lar pre­mier in the coun­try. The Tories could have run a toy poo­dle and beaten her. But with an ex­tremely short cam­paign—just three months—and an un­usu­ally volatile can­di­date, they played it safe. The party sur­rounded Ford with Harperites like Ten­ey­cke and Melissa Lants­man, both with loads of ex­pe­ri­ence in govern­ment and deep Tory roots. Lants­man had worked for Ford’s ri­val Caro­line Mul­roney dur­ing the lead­er­ship race and long be­fore that had served as spokesper­son for for­mer fed­eral fi­nance min­is­ter Joe Oliver. Ten­ey­cke had been a pol­icy ad­vi­sor to both Mike Har­ris and Stephen Harper, had worked as Harper’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and served as vice-pres­i­dent of the short-lived

The Trump com­par­isons are a lit­tle too easy, but they’re not off-base

Sun News Net­work. He brought in an old ally: the ag­gres­sive, tight-lipped Jenni Byrne, whom the Globe and Mail once called “the most pow­er­ful wo­man in Ot­tawa” for her role as Harper’s cam­paign man­ager and ad­vi­sor. “Byrne’s at­ti­tude to­ward the me­dia was that they should sit down and shut the fuck up,” one per­son told me. “She wanted a rigid, au­thor­i­tar­ian sys­tem where no­body said a god­damn word.”

Ford’s team built a plat­form of pop­ulist planks but re­fused to cost it (their fis­cal plan was some­thing along the lines of “just trust us”). They had no me­dia bus on the cam­paign, pre­fer­ring in­stead to reach vot­ers di­rectly through care­fully con­trolled so­cial me­dia, in­clud­ing an on­line chan­nel called Ford Na­tion Live, which later mor­phed into On­tario News Now. Ford re­lent­lessly ex­tolled and ex­ploited his out­sider sta­tus, cast­ing him­self as cham­pion of the lit­tle guy, the anti-elite. “He’s an ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tor,” one city staffer told me. “Peo­ple are be­ing bom­barded with in­for­ma­tion th­ese days, and if you can pen­e­trate through with a short, crisp, ef­fec­tive mes­sage, it’s go­ing to res­onate. He’s no dummy. He cor­rectly gauges the pub­lic mood.”

Scan­dal and chaos still fol­lowed Ford like a shadow. In early May, af­ter a video of Granic Allen mak­ing ho­mo­pho­bic re­marks sur­faced, Ford dumped her as a can­di­date in Mis­sis­sauga Cen­tre. Then, in the fi­nal days of the cam­paign, Rob’s wi­dow, Re­nata, filed a $16.5-mil­lion law­suit against Ford, his brother Randy and Deco, al­leg­ing that they had de­prived her and her chil­dren of mil­lions of dol­lars.

But the facts—that he was in­ex­pe­ri­enced, tur­bu­lent, shady— didn’t seem to mat­ter. Ford won a ma­jor­ity with 76 seats and 41 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote. He’d broad­ened the tra­di­tional Tory coali­tion, adding to its older, white, af­flu­ent vot­ers the large, di­verse and dis­en­fran­chised mem­bers of Ford Na­tion. Down­town Toronto was now an is­land of orange in a sea of blue. Rob Ford had pit­ted sub­ur­ban­ites against down­town­ers for po­lit­i­cal gain. Doug had di­vided the prov­ince.

When Ford was at city hall, he was known for com­ing into meet­ings burst­ing with new, some­times bizarre, of­ten un­der­de­vel­oped ideas: putting a Fer­ris wheel on the water­front, bring­ing an NFL fran­chise to the city. Over time, Rob Ford’s ad­vi­sors, Mark Towhey and Nick Kou­valis, re­al­ized that af­ter hours, Doug was con­sult­ing with a bunch of un­seen, un­elected friends, who were help­ing him con­coct th­ese schemes. Towhey dubbed the group the Night Shift.

One mem­ber of the Night Shift was the tall, sil­ver-haired Dean French, a long-time friend of Ford’s who later served as his cam­paign chair. He was a hard-nosed Eto­bi­coke busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive and lacrosse en­thu­si­ast whose last sig­nif­i­cant role in pol­i­tics was help­ing Stock­well Day in his On­tario cam­paigns. Af­ter Ford ar­rived at Queen’s Park, he brought in French as his chief of staff. At the photo shoot for this story, Ford said, “Dean should be here, too. He’s the sec­ond most in­flu­en­tial per­son in Toronto.”

French shares a lot with Jenni Byrne: both are tough, ar­gu­men­ta­tive and, à la Ford, proud of their di­rect line to the con­ser­va­tive grass­roots base. But Byrne knows how govern­ment works. Ford and French, for bet­ter or worse, don’t. Ford wants to do ev­ery­thing all at once, and when Byrne tries to put on the brakes, he re­lies on French to move things for­ward for him. And mov­ing

things for­ward of­ten means forc­ing things for­ward. “Dean has zero govern­ment ex­pe­ri­ence,” says one PC in­sider, “and now he’s in one of the most pow­er­ful po­si­tions in the govern­ment. He rules by fiat. He doesn’t know how to get things done, so he just bel­lows and screams at the end of the ta­ble. He has a sim­plis­tic, ei­th­eryou’re-with-me-or-against-me at­ti­tude.”

French was Ford’s main ally dur­ing his cru­sade to cut city coun­cil. And when they won that fight, Ford told his staff that, six months from now, no one would even re­mem­ber it. He was prob­a­bly right. Es­pe­cially as he turned his at­ten­tion to the other even more con­tro­ver­sial mat­ters. To thun­der­ous ap­plause in the leg­is­la­ture, he rolled back Lib­eral labour re­forms that would have raised the min­i­mum wage in Jan­uary. He can­celled fund­ing for the ex­pan­sion of uni­ver­si­ties in Mil­ton, Markham and Bramp­ton.

The govern­ment has been great at killing things, but it has had a hard time suc­cess­fully build­ing any­thing of its own. The de­but of Ford’s On­tario Cannabis Store in Oc­to­ber was marred by slow de­liv­ery, mis­ship­ments and com­plaints. While he had loudly promised, in July, the “largest-ever” con­sul­ta­tion on a re­drafted sex-ed cur­ricu­lum, by Oc­to­ber that con­sul­ta­tion only con­sisted of the quiet roll­out of a web­site late on a Fri­day af­ter­noon. And a hun­dred days into its man­date, the Ford govern­ment had yet to re­lease any kind of emis­sions plan to re­place the cap-and-trade leg­is­la­tion it had re­pealed, fo­cus­ing in­stead on tak­ing Trudeau to court over the fed­eral car­bon tax while also dis­miss­ing the $3-bil­lion loss that wind­ing down cap-and-trade rep­re­sented.

The big ques­tion hang­ing over Queen’s Park is how ex­actly Ford plans to bal­ance the books. He re­peat­edly, un­be­liev­ably, in­sisted that he could fix a deficit the Tories claimed was far larger than ex­pected—$15 bil­lion—with­out slash­ing ser­vice or job cuts. And yet it wasn’t clear how he’d square that par­tic­u­lar cir­cle—even to his own cau­cus. “The prov­ince of On­tario is se­ri­ously in debt,” Vic­tor Hard­ing, the pres­i­dent of the Pro­vin­cial Univer­sity Rosedale PC As­so­ci­a­tion, says. “We have the largest debt of any sub-na­tional govern­ment in the world right now. How is Doug Ford go­ing to deal with this debt with­out ei­ther cut­ting pro­grams or heads?”

When Rob Ford was a coun­cil­lor and, to a cer­tain ex­tent, when he was mayor, if a con­stituent had a prob­lem and city staff couldn’t fix it, Rob would fix it him­self. Doug liked to joke that even if it was just a cat stuck in a tree, Rob would try to climb up and get the cat. Doug takes a dif­fer­ent ap­proach: he’ll cut down the tree. And if the cat doesn’t sur­vive, well, there are a lot more cats out there. Both ap­proaches de­lib­er­ately dis­re­gard what our govern­ment is de­signed to do. You can’t climb up to get all cats out and you can’t just cut down all the trees. At some point, you have to plant new ones.

In late Septem­ber, I drove to the Veneto Cen­tre in Vaughan to at­tend Ford Fest. It was the first time the mas­sive an­nual bar­be­cue was held out­side of Eto­bi­coke. When I turned onto Ki­pling, the des­ig­nated park­ing had spilled into the neigh­bour­ing streets. Seven thou­sand peo­ple were there, or so said Ford’s staff. I found one last spot and walked sev­eral blocks, where there was an­other half-hour line to get into the fes­ti­val it­self.

In­side, it was a sea of red, white and blue. Peo­ple wore Doug Ford but­tons, Stop the Gravy Train but­tons, Michael Ford but­tons. Boomer mu­sic pierced the cool air, cour­tesy of DJ Dan Ja­cobs, Steve Clark’s chief of staff: Light­house’s “Sunny Days,” Bos­ton’s “More Than a Feel­ing.” The party was eth­ni­cally and de­mo­graph­i­cally di­verse, with an av­er­age age, I guessed, of around 50. A cou­ple of cab­i­net min­is­ters—Chris­tine El­liott, Rod Phillips— worked the crowd. I skipped the ridicu­lously long lineup for free burg­ers and grabbed a bag of chips.

Ford took to the stage, beam­ing as he al­ways beams, dressed in his week­end uni­form: white shirt, navy blazer, dark jeans. He wore only one ex­pres­sion: Can you be­lieve this shit? He ex­pressed con­cern for two po­lice of­fi­cers shot the day be­fore at a Burling­ton gas sta­tion, then the vic­tims of the tor­na­does in Ot­tawa. In per­pet­ual cam­paign mode, he rhymed off a few of the things his govern­ment had ac­com­plished: end­ing the York strike, Buck-aBeer, and, to the great­est ap­plause, can­celling cap-and-trade. “We got Kath­leen Wynne’s hand out of your pocket,” he said, “and now we’re go­ing to get Justin Trudeau’s hand out of your pocket.” He talked about the deficit the Lib­er­als left be­hind, how there would be con­se­quences. “We’ll show them,” he said, “that you don’t just get to walk away.”

“Lock her up!” sev­eral peo­ple chanted. “Liars,” a wo­man be­side me mut­tered. “Scrap Trudeau!” a guy be­hind me yelled. A wo­man at the front of the crowd waved a black T-shirt that read “Next Stop Ot­tawa.” When Ford fin­ished his speech, he stayed on stage and peo­ple lined up again, this time to have their pic­tures taken with him. It was hard to tell how many peo­ple were there over the course of the next cou­ple of hours—500, a thou­sand. He was def­i­nitely more pop­u­lar than the burg­ers.

I went to the bath­room and there, in a hallway be­tween the stage and the wash­rooms, was the core of the Ford fam­ily—Randy, Diane, Karla and a cou­ple of the daugh­ters—just hang­ing out. It was star­tling, like run­ning into the Kar­dashi­ans at Old Navy. It was the Fords’ event, I knew, and be­ing one with the peo­ple was the whole point of the thing, but it was still weirdly re­fresh­ing. Few po­lit­i­cal fam­i­lies, I thought, would sub­ject them­selves to such ca­sual ex­po­sure in such a dingy lo­ca­tion. As green rooms go, it wasn’t glam­orous or com­fort­able. There was no food or drink, nowhere to sit down, no security, no pri­vacy. You could smell the wash­rooms. They were wait­ing, it seemed, for Doug to wrap up, but they were also, ob­vi­ously, hold­ing court. Friends and fans stopped to say hi, hug them, tell sto­ries. Randy stood about a head taller than the crowd, in his trade­mark cow­boy hat and boots and a grey cor­duroy jacket. Diane was wear­ing Skech­ers and a soft, blue-and-grey coat with a pat­tern of a wolf’s

Doug has said that Rob was “too real.” As far as vot­ers are con­cerned, Doug is just real enough

head on the back. Karla was smil­ing and con­ge­nial, in a dark T-shirt and a Michael Ford but­ton.

This was likely the clos­est I was ever go­ing to get to the pre­mier, so I hung around for a long time. Peo­ple kept com­ing, kept say­ing hello. Fi­nally, I saw Karla was alone for a minute and in­tro­duced my­self. She gri­maced. I said, “Can I ask you a ques­tion or two?” She said no. I asked any­way: “Has Doug changed at all since he be­came pre­mier?”

“Not at all. Doug is the same. A gem. One of a kind. We’re lucky to have him.” “What’s he like when he’s not work­ing?” “He’s al­ways work­ing.” “He never takes a break? Plays golf? Goes for a swim?”

“He’s al­ways work­ing. Al­ways brain­storm­ing. He treats ev­ery­one with re­spect and that’s what ev­ery­one needs. Es­pe­cially th­ese days.”

The for­mer Rebel Me­dia com­men­ta­tor Faith Goldy, then a may­oral can­di­date, walked in and threw her arms around Randy. I thanked Karla and went back out­side. Peo­ple were still lined up to the back of the hall, still wait­ing for Ford. (Later, to great con­tro­versy, Goldy and her all-male en­tourage would also pose with him.) A large man caught my eye and, in re­sponse to the end­less selfies, said, “Wow.” We talked a bit. His name was Binder Singh, and he was a 48-year-old en­tre­pre­neur from Bramp­ton. I asked him if he had been to any pre­vi­ous Ford Fests. Singh said, sure, that he’d known the Fords for about 20 years. He was san­guine about Doug’s elec­tion. “How of­ten do you change your car?” he asked me. “Ev­ery five, 10 years? Same thing with govern­ment. You need a change.”

I asked Singh the same ques­tion I asked Karla, if Doug had changed. He smiled, know­ingly. “Yeah, bro,” he said, “he’s los­ing his free­dom.” Singh ex­plained: he’s sur­rounded now by con­ser­va­tives, lob­by­ists, cor­po­ra­tions. He needs to please other peo­ple. Doug looked af­ter his guys, he had that loy­alty. But that meant that those guys, guys who hadn’t been elected, also wanted to tell him what to do.

Singh pointed at Dean French, who was stand­ing on­stage, help­ing to usher peo­ple into po­si­tion or off­stage. I wasn’t so sure that Doug had lost his free­dom, ex­actly, but a metaphor started to form be­fore my eyes. On one side of the stage were the peo­ple, the peo­ple that Ford couldn’t stop talk­ing about, the peo­ple that he needed and who needed him, who would line up for hours just for the brief chance to shake his hand, to put their arm around him, to bathe in the ra­di­ance of that smile. And then, there was French, shuf­fling them off the stage, send­ing them back to their lives, where they would wait for Ford to do some­thing for them, to save them some money, to make things sim­pler. Even if the peo­ple felt, for a minute, part of it, it was still a po­lit­i­cal ma­chine. “Ev­ery politi­cian elected to gov­ern is even­tu­ally made a hyp­ocrite by govern­ment,” the strate­gist Chad Rogers said to me. How long would it be be­fore the anti-politi­cian, the an­tiBrown, the anti-Wynne was made a hyp­ocrite? Doug never stopped smil­ing.

When Doug Ford won the PC lead­er­ship, he brought his fam­ily up on stage with him, in­clud­ing, from left, his mother, Diane; his wife, Karla; and his four daugh­ters, Kayla, Krista, Kyla and Kara

Af­ter the elec­tion, Ford took a vic­tory bow at Queen’s Park dur­ing Ques­tion Pe­riod

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