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Rob Ford: The lone wolf who has to learn to lead a pack Add to ...

Rob Ford is giving his first national radio interview as mayor-elect of Canada's largest city, one day after his resounding victory.

"People are calling it a stunning win," Carol Off, the co-host of CBC's As It Happens, begins. "What do you think …"

"Things are going really well," he interjects.

"What drew so much suppo -"

"Coach!" he suddenly barks. "Half your juniors aren't even here, eh?"

The country's newest political superstar has booked his talk with a news flagship at the same time he's coaching high-school football. Folksy, perhaps, but it also makes it appear he doesn't take his new job seriously.

He feeds Ms. Off a few platitudes about cost-cutting, yells at his players some more and hangs up abruptly.

The picture is quite different the next morning when Mr. Ford strides into Talk Radio AM 640, the "home of the Leafs" and the former home of "What's eating Rob Ford?" - a weekly segment about municipal profligacy that helped propel the councillor from the inner suburb of Etobicoke to city-wide fame.

There, the mayor-elect chuckles easily with John Oakley, even as the host presses him on how he'll reduce taxes and staff without affecting services.

"It's $40-million, Johnny," Mr. Ford says lightly, referring to the revenue he'll lose if he eliminates Toronto's despised car-registration tax. "There's so many ways. Look, I'm just asking people to tighten their belts two per cent, which is really small compared to the private sector."

What's the truth in this Tale of Two Robs: Is he the scattered, inarticulate guy who blew off the CBC, or the likeable everyman who gave Mr. Oakley a sensible answer to a complex query?

That's the flummoxing thing about Toronto's new mayor. He is both his own best focus group and his own worst enemy. He reads wildly differently to different audiences, dominating polls in the megacity's former suburbs while flaming out downtown.

For a decade, Mr. Ford was a bellowing caricature, ineffective in city-council chambers but with underestimated strength as a retail politician in his ward. As a mayoral candidate, he became an unflappable success.

That's partly thanks to a campaign team that tamed his excesses. But Mr. Ford also knew what he wanted, and he knew what recession-weary taxpayers wanted - a back-to-basics government that collected fewer taxes and issued fewer high-minded pronouncements. The contest was called eight minutes after polls closed.

Now, the question is, which Mr. Ford will return to run Toronto? Will his raw, populist instincts serve him as well in the mayor's chair? Can he continue to grow, or will he revert to his old, hair-trigger ways under the pressure of running a government larger than that of most provinces?

The answers may indicate how insurgent winners might manage in office in other provinces or even south of the border. And the clues all lie behind the scenes of one of the most remarkable campaigns in living memory.

The man with a clan

Doug Ford was driving down a Chicago highway last Jan. 7 when he got the phone call that upended his life.

"Jones - you wouldn't believe it. John Tory's not running."

Jones is 45-year-old Doug, the smoother and slimmer make of Ford elected to Toronto city council this week. Jones is also 41-year-old Rob, the rougher and rounder model elected mayor the same night.

The brothers never call each by their real names. It's always just Jones, a reciprocal tic they picked up from an Englishman who used to keep the books at Deco Labels & Tags, their multimillion-dollar printing company. These are siblings so close they share one nickname.

So Doug knew what Rob meant when he said Mr. Tory, the early conservative favourite for mayor, had stepped out of the way. "I almost drove into a telephone pole," Doug says. The brothers decided Rob's moment had arrived. But first they had to consult the rest of the Fords.

Most politicians have families - spouses and offspring who back them as reassuring props at events and in photos. Rob Ford has a clan, one that includes the only people he seems to truly trust, and it's the one he grew up with in the pocket of north Etobicoke now sometimes referred to as "Ford country." In fact, his wife, Renata, and two young children went unseen this campaign season until election night.

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