Toronto Mayor Rob Ford could soon wish he was back in rehab or hanging out in Ontario’s cottage country—the two things he spent the last two months doing during his time away from politics.
Instead, he is grinding it out in the race for mayor of Canada’s largest city in a campaign that will see him suffer the slings and arrows of outraged Torontonians who just might overwhelm his diehard supporters.
Ford got a preview of what’s to come when he took to the streets for a Canada Day parade in east Toronto on Tuesday, July 1. A video of one furious and well-built shirtless jogger accosting the mayor has gone viral and garnered the man twitter-love from people calling him a hero.
The jogger, teacher Joe Killoran, has been dubbed the “shirtless jogger,” and while praised by Ford’s critics, he has been denounced by Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother and campaign manager.
In footage shot by Global News, Killoran shouted at Ford calling him “a corrupt, lying, racist homophobe” before being surrounded by reporters at the East York Canada Day parade.
Doug Ford said Killoran has anger management problems. Killoran said he is a peaceful man.
Ford’s contrite return to political life is off to a bumpy start. He’s faced sharp criticism for refusing to take questions at his first press conference and denying some reporters entry. He used that press conference to apologize for his mistakes and admit that his problems with drugs and alcohol predate his time as mayor.
Ford admitted to smoking crack cocaine again shortly before leaving for rehab. The Globe and Mail published a video image of that incident, prompting the mayor’s two-month departure from the race.
Ford and his brother, who is a Toronto city councillor, are also facing accusations they used their positions in city hall to help Apollo Health and Beauty Care, a client of the Ford family’s labelling business Deco Labels and Tags.
But it would be too early to rule Ford out of the race. Recent polls suggest he’s held onto the support of Ford Nation, the moniker for his most loyal supporters. Most polls put him in second place behind former NDP MP Olivia Chow.
One recent poll by Forum Research gave Chow a solid 7 percent lead on the mayor (34 percent vs. Ford’s 27 percent), but with nearly four months yet to go and (hopefully) the worst behind him, Ford still looks to have a chance.
The question now is how far Ford will go to avoid probing questions. The race for Mayor of Toronto is notably long and includes dozens of debates. In his first race for mayor, Ford attended hundreds of events and around 100 debates.
Ford could decide to dodge many of those this time around. Calls to his campaign office were answered with a blunt refusal to give any indication where Ford might turn up.
But as the “shirtless jogger” revealed on Canada Day, ignoring questions won’t make it any easier for Ford’s most vocal critics to keep their shirts on. The real question is whether Ford will be able to answer in a way that will win back some of his previous supporters.
With files from the Canadian Press