Ford funeral should include City Hall visitation

To give a chance for the city of Toronto to mourn the death of Rob Ford the idea of having the former mayor “lie in state” is an idea being discussed at City Hall today, the Sun has learned.

Several council members say they are in favour of the idea for the popular and unforgettable figure.

But a final decision will not be made by Mayor John Tory and council.

“It all comes down to (Ford’s mother) Diane Ford,” said a source who has been in several meetings to discuss the logistics. “This is her call.”

And of course Ford’s widow Renata and other families members too.

The Etobicoke North (Ward 2) councillor died Tuesday and the family is still reeling from that fact. There is a long line of people signing a book of condolences for Ford in the City Hall rotunda and laying flowers and other tributes at Doug Ford park in Etobicoke.

Funeral arrangements are being discussed and not yet organized.

Sources say the funeral could be early next week at St. James Cathedral.

It’s the first time a mayor of the amalgamated city has died so it isn’t entirely clear how City Hall should respond.

Sources tell me Tory has graciously offered the gesture of having Ford lie in repose at City Hall so people can personally and properly pay their final respects.

“John knew Rob for a long time and is supportive of such a plan,” said someone close to him.

But Tory or his staff have not commented. Nor has the Ford family.

“A final decision has yet to be made,” said a Ford insider.

It’s in a discussion phase. There are several other approaches being considered including a more private (funeral and visitation). That said, sources close to both the family and the city, have said all sides realize a funeral home for visitation is not realistic. The lineups would be so long and that’s just for the political figures.

Throw in Ford Nation and many in the public and there could be thousands of well wishers.

“There are just too many people that would want to be there to say goodbye to Rob and to grieve with Renata, Stephanie, Dougie, Diane, Doug, Randy, Cathy, Mikey and the others,” said former campaign worker and Ford friend Louise Boehler. “They all know so many people.”

Few politicians knew as many people as Rob Ford.

“I think it should be an all out state funeral,” said former political candidate and journalist Karlene Nation on The John Oakley Show on AM640 this morning, where I was invited in to co-host with John on this special day. “I think the city should spend the money and do this for him and for that family.”

Oakley and I looked at each other because we understood the problem that would cause. Just before that call he and I were talking about some sort of public event in Ford’s memory but were cognizant of the fact that there is no way penny-pinching Ford would have wanted too much public money spent on such an event.

I am told the Ford family feel the same way — hence that they have yet to make a decision. That said sources tell me the expenses of such an endeavour would be minimal and manageable.

It would, I am told, not be as much a state funeral as a visitation at City Hall rather than a traditional funeral home. It’s not technically lying in state but lying in repose.

“The idea is to have him lie in state at City Hall so that people could come by and pay their respect and be around other people he touched,” said a source. “Another idea was to have him lie in state at the Etobicoke Civic Centre.”

In my view it has to be at City Hall. It’s the only place fitting for someone who was the city’s 64th mayor and so widely known.

“Why can’t we do the same and one step more than what we did for Jack Layton,” said Boehler fighting tears. “He should lie in state. He was still a city councillor. Give the family a break. You know if they put him in a funeral parlour it’s going to be three days of hell for the family.”

She said “give Diane time to make this decision because as she told me, she will be burying her baby.”

Word is details could be available later today or tomorrow.

From my understanding the funeral component of it would all be covered by the Ford family regardless and all that the city would worry about is security — something they already do anyway.

All that needs to happen now is for the Ford family to be convinced it’s the right thing, that it will be a safe and respectful setting and, most important, low cost to the taxpayers.

This is a no-brainer.

As long as the costs would be something Rob would sign off on, my vote would be to have this legendary Toronto mayor in City Hall once again for people to say goodbye.

For all he gave and for how public his life was, he deserves it.

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