Rob Ford Memorial Stadium? Doug Ford wants it, John Tory backs it
As mayor, Rob Ford made world headlines for smoking crack cocaine and associating with gang members. His name would replace Centennial Park Stadium.
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School athletes will soon be competing in Rob Ford Memorial Stadium if Toronto Mayor John Tory gets his way.
In a letter to his city council colleagues obtained by the Star, Tory makes the case for renaming Centennial Park Stadium to honour his predecessor who served as an Etobicoke councillor for a decade before a tumultuous term as mayor. Ford, 46, died from cancer, after a return to council, in March 2016.
The move by Tory, who also proposes council confer as-yet-undecided honors on Pam McConnell and Ron Moeser, the other councillors who died this term, will be controversial, given that, as mayor, Ford made world headlines for smoking crack cocaine and associating with gang members.
The name change was suggested by Doug Ford, the former councillor who replaced his brother Rob in the 2014 mayoral election and is vowing a rematch with Tory in the 2018 civic election.
In March, Doug Ford questioned why the city had not yet honoured his brother, telling CityNews: “There’s never been a politician like Rob, good or bad. There’s never been a mayor that answers his phone at 11 p.m. at night and shows up to people’s doors . . . .
“There’s a stadium in Etobicoke, a small one that doesn’t have a name, in Centennial Park. We’d like it to possibly be named the Rob Ford stadium. He coached there . . . . He played, himself, there and it’s local. It’s a pretty modest ask.”
At the Ford Fest party earlier this month, Doug Ford announced his intention to challenge Tory whom he called “all talk and no action and broken promises.”
Tory’s letter to councillors notes that as Ward 2 councillor Rob Ford became known for his “unique approach to public service.” That including constantly returning phone calls, visiting residents all over the city and demanding city staff immediately solve problems such as potholes.
The mayor’s letter highlights Rob Ford’s passion for football, founding the Newtonbrook North Stars in 1999 and later starting a football program at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School. He also launched his own football foundation charity to help start programs at other schools.
“In light of his many years of work on football programs in Etobicoke, it is fitting that city council should rename the football stadium at Centennial Park the ‘Rob Ford Memorial Stadium,’ ” the letter states. “The Ford family and the local councillor (Ford’s nephew Michael Ford) have been consulted and agree with the change.”
The letter to councillors does not mention that, in 2013, the Catholic board banned Ford from coaching at its schools, after he described his players as “coming from gangs” and “broken homes,” or that a city council vote involving his football charity almost got Ford banished from office.
For McConnell, the 71-year-old Ward 28 councillor who died in July after suffering lung problems, Tory proposes to “convene a panel of interested councillors and members of the community, in order to determine a suitable public property for renaming in memory of Pam McConnell.”
Tory says he will give suggestions to council “at a later date” on ways to honour the social justice champion who was “responsible for leading Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy . . . that will ensure more people prosper, more families are supported and more children have opportunities here in Toronto.”
For Moeser, the longtime Ward 44 councillor who died in April at age 74 after being diagnosed with lymphoma, Tory says he will convene “a panel of interested councillors and members of the community, in order to determine a suitable public property for renaming in memory of Ron Moeser.”
Tory’s letter notes that Moeser was fundamental in the creation of Rouge Park “and his legacy will be the preservation of the Rouge Valley for future generations to enjoy,” adding that he was also heavily involved in the development and expansion of Scarborough Waterfront Trail.
City council will have final say over any renaming honours. Others honoured in the past include Ford’s father Douglas Ford Sr., a businessman and former Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP for whom an Etobicoke park is named, and Ford’s former council seatmate Jack Layton, whose name and statue grace Toronto’s main ferry terminal.