The mall is located steps from the Fords’ childhood home. “If [Doug] wasn’t going out, someone would go down to the house and pick it up and bring it down to the Royal York Plaza,” said “Sheila,” adding that she was an RY Drifter who bought small quantities of hash from Mr. Ford, and knew him to supply street-level dealers. “If Doug wasn’t around, people … would sell it for him. It was an operation.” The quantities that Mr. Ford handled were, at times, substantial. “Michael” said he remembered buying hash from Doug Ford at least half a dozen times – before he found a cheaper source – and that each time he bought between one-quarter and one-half of a pound. He said that a quarter-pound sold for between $400 and $425.
Like many of the street-level dealers interviewed, he said he sold hash in order to support his own smoking habits. When asked where Mr. Ford fit in the hierarchy of dealers in their neighbourhood, he replied: “He’d be at the top.”
Turf wars were rare. Relations between dealers were so good, in fact, that in times of short supply, competitors turned to each other for help. “Robert,” a former high-volume seller of hash, said he had an arrangement with Mr. Ford. “He would buy off me, sometimes I would buy off him.”
“Tom,” the high-volume hash dealer who admired Mr. Ford’s ability to avoid scrutiny, also said he and Doug helped each other out during shortages. “We had all figured out that that kept the cops away. ‘Let’s keep things low-profile. Why start fights? There’s enough money in it for everybody.’ And most people agreed with that. Once the fights start and the guns come out, then the cops will be in and it will ruin it for everybody.”
But the shunning of strong-arm tactics was not universal.
Marco Orlando had thick, curly black hair and round cheeks. He and his parents, Italian immigrants, lived in a bungalow on a quiet cul-de-sac a short walk from the Ford family home.
He was also supplied a lot of drugs on credit but was notoriously unreliable when it came to paying for them. Among his suppliers, the suspicion was that Marco was sharing his illicit proceeds with his parents and feigning poverty. So two weeks before Christmas, they hatched a plan, said “Tom,” a drug dealer who said he was involved in the scheme.
On a Tuesday night, with the usual throng of young adults outside the Bank of Montreal at the Royal York Plaza, Marco was jumped, beaten and thrown into a car. He was driven more than 30 kilometres to a basement in Bolton, where someone called his parents, demanding they hand over the money. For 10 hours, Mr. Orlando was captive, but his parents didn’t panic. Instead, they called the police. Within three days, all three men allegedly involved in the plot were under arrest. (“The powers-that-be blow things all out of proportion, and I guess technically it is kidnapping, but in our world, he owed us $5,000,” said Tom.)
One of those arrested was Randy Ford, who was 24 at the time. Court records retrieved from the Archives of Ontario show that he was charged with assault causing bodily harm and the forcible confinement of Mr. Orlando. The records do not disclose how the case was resolved. Randy Ford’s lawyer at the time, Dennis Morris – currently representing Rob Ford in the controversy over the alleged crack-cocaine video – said he did not recall the incident. He questioned the allegations surrounding the Ford family’s past: “What’s the point, other than a smear campaign?”
Since his brothers became leaders of Canada’s largest city, Randy has largely remained in the background. Like them, he has blond hair and a wide frame; he also drives a Cadillac Escalade. One of the few times he has been photographed by the media was for a Toronto Star article during the 2010 election campaign. He posed with his brothers in front of a portrait of their father at the family business, where Randy oversees manufacturing. During the election-night speeches at the Toronto Congress Centre, he stood silently behind Doug, wearing a dark cowboy hat.