The saga of Rob Ford, the unlikely and unfathomable former Toronto mayor, is the rare political story that fascinates long after it has effectively ended. Ford, who is fighting cancer, is out of the international spotlight (at least) and back working as a councillor for his corner of northern Etobicoke. And even though Ivor Tossell and Robyn Doolittle have already written books about, respectively, the influence of Ford and Ford under the influence, there is still more to be said about this man and his story.
Now, though, it is Ford’s co-workers who are writing about him. Mark Towhey, one of Ford’s aides, is out with a tell-all, and John Filion, a former Toronto city councilor and journalist, has written The Only Average Guy, which is an interesting mélange of memoir, reportage, and pop psychiatry.
Filion’s decency and restraint in writing about Ford is Herculean. There are no cheap shots about Ford’s weight, intelligence, or even his poor grasp of the job he campaigned for and won. Instead, Filion is constantly seeking to make sense of Ford and understand where he’s coming from, which can be as admirable as it is at times infuriating, considering the depth and breadth of Ford’s prejudices.
One of the strengths of The Only Average Guy is the author’s abilty to mix his journalistic chops with an insider’s access. He is able to describe personal conversations between Ford, other councillors, and city hall officials. Filion is also relatively friendly with Ford, which allows him to describe how the former mayor feels about what he’s done and the world’s response.
Filion also manages to get sources very close to Ford – including brother Doug, campaign guru Nick Kouvalis, and unfailingly honest policy adviser Sheila Paxton – to talk on the record. These contributions add to the overall picture of a tumultuous moment in Toronto’s political history.
The Only Average Guy is an entertaining read and useful addition to the literature about Ford. The book also helps the former mayor appear more like something closer to a complex human than he has since his election as mayor.