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Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, photographed in his office at the family business in Etobicoke, Ont., in February, 2011. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, photographed in his office at the family business in Etobicoke, Ont., in February, 2011. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Globe investigation: The Ford family’s history with drug dealing Add to ...

After a few days, there was only one person left chugging around the track.

“I remember Rob, who was about the same size as he is now, running this thing every day for like two weeks until he was the only guy running – but still giving it 100 per cent at the beginning of every practice until he finally made it,” said Mike Lawler, a former Scarlett Heights coach.

“I just thought it took a lot for a kid to do that and not say ‘to hell with it.’ ”

Another former Scarlett Heights football coach, Art Robinson, described young Rob as a leader, who was regularly the foreman in his shop class. There were even a few occasions, Mr. Robinson said, that Rob alerted him to students smoking pot on school grounds.

He went on to attend Carleton University. where he played football but never left the bench, one former teammate said. He dropped out in 1990, the end of his first year, he has told the online news service Openfile.

After that, he joined the family business, but unlike Doug, who ambitiously worked to grow the company, helping it expand to Chicago, his heart was not in it, several former employees said.

“Robbie just did not have the passion for labels,” one long-time employee said. “He did what he had to do because it was the family business, but he did not show true passion until he got into politics.”

His first run for public office came when he was 27, a council election that he lost. Undeterred, he became involved in several civic-minded campaigns – including one that targeted drug dealers and buyers.

In 1998, he teamed with his father and Toronto police for an unorthodox project, he later told The Etobicoke Guardian. In what would be the start of his unwavering tough-on-crime platform, he – at the time, 29 and unelected – and Doug Sr. – a backbencher at Queen’s Park – travelled to Scarlettwood Courts, an Etobicoke public-housing complex, to rid it of illegal drugs.

“When people would drive through to buy drugs, we’d send the owner of the car a letter. It would tell them not come back to the area,” Mr. Ford told the Guardian after he was elected to City Council in 2000. He said his crime-fighting campaign had helped him win the election and promised to take the battle to other low-income neighbourhoods.

But his personal war on drugs was short-lived. The year after their letter-writing campaign, he was arrested in Florida after being pulled over for impaired driving. Police also found a joint in his pocket – an offence not revealed until his 2010 mayoral campaign.

Throughout the reporting of this story, Doug Ford made several phone calls to Globe managers and reporters to complain about the questions being asked.

In November, 2011, he called a reporter in the evening to complain about the newspaper’s “yellow” and “gutter” journalism.

“I’m getting calls from people I haven’t talked to in 20 years,” he said. When asked why he was so upset, he responded that he objected to “the type of questions” being asked.

“This is going to get ugly,” he said, explaining that he was too “hot” at that moment to consider setting up a formal sit-down interview.

His call appeared to have been prompted by a brief interview The Globe had conducted that day, when a reporter asked a former associate about the RY Drifters – a group that he said never existed.

“It’s like a folk tale,” he said.

Greg McArthur is an investigative reporter with The Globe and Mail. Shannon Kari is a freelance journalist in Toronto. They were assisted by staff researcher Stephanie Chambers

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