TORONTO — The death of Toronto's controversial former mayor Rob Ford sent shock waves throughout the city and beyond Tuesday, with supporters and detractors alike voicing their grief and sympathy at the loss of one of Canada's most colourful and notorious public figures.
Politicians of all stripes praised the passion and fierce determination that made Ford a political powerhouse for years and endeared him to throngs of devoted followers despite the cloud of scandal that hung over him.
Ford's successor, Mayor John Tory, said he was sad the man he described as "a profoundly human guy" would not return to city hall, adding Ford's presence "will be missed."
"The city is reeling with this news, and my thoughts are with his wife Renata and their two children, as well as Rob's brothers Doug and Randy, his sister Kathy, his mother, Diane, and the rest of their tight-knit family," Tory said.
He praised Ford as a man who "spoke his mind and who ran for office because of the deeply felt convictions that he had."
"I remember this man who was, at one and the same time, very true to himself and true to his principles but also very gregarious," Tory said in a news conference. "He was a person who loved the city, he loved people."
All flags on official poles at Toronto civic centres, including city hall, were flown at half-mast in tribute to Ford, whose political career spanned more than a decade, the mayor said. A book of condolences was set up at city hall and mourners lined up throughout the afternoon to sign it.
Doug Ford sent a statement to Toronto television station CP24 late Tuesday, saying he is devastated by the loss of his beloved brother.
"My heart is ripped out. I loved Rob so much I took care of him and protected him from the day he was born," the statement said. "I miss him so much. He was my best friend."
A moment of silence was observed at Ontario's legislature as news of Ford's death spread.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said the former mayor "earned widespread respect for his unwavering persistence in the face of serious health concerns."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his condolences to Ford's family, as did former prime minister Stephen Harper, whose close ties to the ex-mayor were highlighted in last fall's federal election.
"Rob was a fighter throughout life & dedicated public servant who will be remembered for his courage, love for Toronto & his family," Harper said in a tweet.
Ford was also remembered as a "tireless fighter for the taxpayer and a true advocate for the people he represented" by the interim leader of the federal Opposition, Rona Ambrose.
By early evening, people started creating a makeshift memorial at the Ford family home in west Toronto.
They left flowers and a burning votive candle by a lampost on the front lawn.
The brash politician whose populist ideals drew unwavering loyalty from the so-called "Ford Nation" was remembered on social media, where a flood of condolences made him a trending topic Tuesday.
"RIP Rob Ford, you were a legend," one person wrote on Twitter.
"RIP Rob Ford. You may have been Toronto's Mayor, but you were America's Sweetheart," another said.
Even those who denounced his agenda voiced their grief online.
"My condolences to the family of Rob Ford. Although I did not subscribe to his politics I believe he was sincere. This is so sad," read a message on Twitter.
"Clearly, I was not the biggest fan of Rob Ford, but the man has a family and actually loved Toronto. This is very sad," read another.
Ford's death also captured international attention, with news outlets around the world publishing profiles of the politician who made headlines when he admitted to using crack cocaine.
Ford bobblehead dolls, which the ex-mayor sold and autographed on several occasions, were being listed for sale online Tuesday, some with an asking price of up to $500. Proceeds from at least one edition of the so-called "Robbie Bobbies" went to two Toronto hospitals where Ford received treatment for cancer.
Ford, 46, died in hospital with his family by his side after a long battle with a rare and aggressive type of cancer.
— With files from Michelle McQuigge, Allison Jones
By Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press