Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was just one attraction among many at the Toronto's St. Patrick's Day parade. Yet the same crowds who stood indifferent to the beauty queens, musicians, and screaming fire engines erupted whenever Mayor Ford drew near.
Known for his public battles over the past year with alleged drug and alcohol addiction, camera-phone videos and an ongoing police investigation, the mayor is polarizing figure.
Parents with young children were overheard arguing whether they should rush to his side for a photo or not. Wearing an oversized green bow tie for the occasion, Mr. Ford simply threw green beaded necklaces into the crowd as his small entourage gladhanded specially printed stickers reading "Happy St. Patrick's Day: Mayor Rob Ford."
That left revellers in identical green top hats to shout completely contrary things at the mayor, once he came in earshot. "That man should not be in public office," said Peter Dotsikas, a 50-year-old lawyer, adding that he told the mayor that he was "sick."
Yet just a block away later, a receptionist named Joanne Crandell told the mayor that she loved him. "I think he's just a great guy. Even after all that, I think he's human and deserves a second chance," she said. "We all make mistakes."
Just who will take part in next year's parade is anyone's guess at this point.
One early poll has Mr. Ford running second to the newly announced candidate Ms. Chow, the popular left-leaning MP who announced last week she is quitting federal politics in hopes of the becoming mayor.
The mayor's brother and confidant, Councillor Doug Ford, joined the mayor on his march Sunday, and said they are undaunted by polls putting them in second place.
"You know something, the only poll that counts is the one on election day, and we look forward to closing that gap real quick," he said.
"Once people get to know who spends the money and who saves the money – and that guy saves the money," he said, gesturing at his brother, then getting mobbed for photos a few paces up ahead.