At the beginning of the scrum, there's no hint of front-page news. It's a feel-good affair, the launch of the 100th Grey Cup festival, and it's going off without a hitch: theatre full of suits, pounding dance music, speech from the Mayor, free popcorn for all.
It's a story, but not a big one - at least until Doug Ford Jr. starts talking.
Before the rookie councillor can glad-hand, he agrees to answer a few reporters' questions. It's a request he's come to expect over the whirlwind year during which he's evolved from a successful but anonymous executive in a 200-employee family printing firm to one of the city's - and, for that matter, the country's - major political power brokers.
The initial question revolves around future subway financing. No news there.
Next comes a question about possible road tolls. Ho hum.
Finally he's asked about luring an NFL team to Toronto. His answer?
"Before our administration's four-year term is up, hopefully we'll have an NFL team."
In the middle of a CFL party? Now we're cooking.
Front Page Ford strikes again.
The next day's Toronto Sun labels him a "PARTY POOPER" on its front page, accusing him of crashing a CFL celebration by speaking on ambitions to land an American team that could kill the Canadian game in Toronto. It's typical Doug Ford: too blunt, too off-the-cuff, the kind of spontaneous quote to try a press secretary's soul. In an interview with The Globe and Mail that morning, he promises to speak about anything - his brother's intellect, the curious business philosophy he's bringing to city hall, his potential provincial candidacy, but "I'm not saying another word about football until we get a team. That's it. Not another word."
At city hall, he is rumoured to be the mouthpiece, muscle, brain and conscience of his brother the Mayor. But despite being a human news-generator, a new politician with so much sway after just six months in office that a conservative establishment that shunned him twice now openly courts him - little is known of what the rookie actually does.
"Technically, he's just another councillor," said Councillor Josh Colle, a fellow newbie councillor. "I'm not totally clear what his role is beyond what I see in the council chambers."
Others are more certain.
"He's the de facto mayor," said Councillor Joe Mihevc, who sits behind Mr. Ford in council. "He calls the shots."
Bringing Six Sigma to City Hall
Doug Ford is a 46-year-old father of four daughters. He is five-foot-ten and weighs in at 260 pounds. He does not eat red meat. He used to work out three times a day and bench-press 350 pounds, "but then everything went to hell," he says, grabbing his belly. "I'd like to get back into the 225-pound range, back to being dancing dynamite." He worries the non-stop life of a councillor will kill him.
He drives a black Lincoln Navigator SUV and can leap atop the hood in a single bound. Like many aspects of its driver's personality, the Lincoln is too big for City Hall. On Mr. Ford's first day of work at the clamshell, he scratched his roof navigating the underground parking lot.
The Lincoln has been relegated to an outdoor gravel lot ever since.
Several years ago, his life and business changed when he discovered Lean Six Sigma, a kind of contemporary Taylorism where every aspect of a business is analyzed, charted and stripped of parts that don't create value.
During an interview in his sparsely decorated office, Mr. Ford demonstrates one aspect of Six Sigma he employed while chief executive officer at Deco Labels and Tags, the family printing firm founded in 1962 by his father, Doug Sr., who died in 2006. "We'd do a spaghetti chart," he said, drawing out random scribbles. "You follow a person around. Everywhere he'd go, you follow him and follow him, by the end of it you'd have something like that, a plate of spaghetti." He holds up a tangle of squiggles, meant to map a press operator's movements for an entire shift.
When Six Sigma experts, who rank themselves according to coloured belts much like martial artists (Mr. Ford is an orange belt, third from the bottom), videotaped the press operator, they realized vast portions of his shift were spent searching for lost tools. Deco bought new tools and then traced their shapes on walls and drawers, so it was obvious when something was missing.