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When the mayor returns from his rehab break on Monday, the attention of the city, the country and even the world will be drawn once again to our infamous civic leader. His notoriety is so great that the first thing many outsiders think of when they hear the word Toronto is Rob Ford.

Well, here is a message to the world: Toronto is not Rob Ford. Toronto is more than that.

Toronto is the soaring glass and steel of a downtown reaching for the clouds. Toronto is the Royal Bank towers gleaming gold in the sunshine. Toronto is the skyline after dark seen from the Island ferry on a soft summer night. Toronto is the cool modernist majesty of the Toronto-Dominion Centre. Toronto is the spire of the CN Tower, a symbol of urban ambition calling us to aim higher. Toronto is the stone staircases circling weathered totem poles at the ROM.

Toronto is festivals of beer, fringe theatre, documentaries, dance, jazz, Japanese film. Toronto is 99 public libraries, soon to be 100. Toronto is 1,600 parks and 51 artificial ice rinks. Toronto is skating circles at City Hall under the lights as the bells of Old City Hall toll the hour.

Toronto isn't Rob Ford. Toronto is more than that.

Toronto is the glow of the poplars on the Islands in the slanting late-afternoon light. Toronto is the sound of the Rouge River as it hurries down to the lake. Toronto is a group of cormorants skimming like black wraiths over the flat water of the outer harbour. Toronto is the Don Valley in its autumn colours.

Toronto is a trio of teenaged girls linking arms as they dodge in and out of stores in the Eaton Centre. Toronto is a Chinese-speaking man cooling his bare feet in the reflecting pool at Nathan Phillips Square as his small daughter playfully loops her frilly red purse over his shoulder. Toronto is the café in Kensington Market advertising "vegan mocha."

Toronto isn't Rob Ford. Toronto is more than that.

Toronto is more than 100 same-sex couples getting married in the sun at Casa Loma. Toronto is the woman waiting at the streetcar stop in black head scarf and wrap-around sunglasses, Mountain Equipment Co-op backpack slung over her shoulder.

Toronto is the young woman with a yoga mat, hiking boots and ukelele rushing to the bus station bound for who knows where. Toronto is the old woman pushing her bundle-buggy full of bok choy through old Chinatown. Toronto is the hipsters sprawled drinking beer on the weedy lawn at Trinity-Bellwoods Park, cheerfully breaking the law.

Toronto is the guy picking his screaming, laughing girlfriend off her feet and threatening to douse her in the fountains at Yonge-Dundas Square. Toronto is the women on impossible heels ruling the night in Clubland. Toronto is the smell that comes off the asphalt when it rains.

Toronto isn't Rob Ford. Toronto is more than that.

Toronto is the rush that comes from whizzing along the Gardiner Expressway, skyscrapers to one side, sparkling harbour to the other (when the traffic is moving). Toronto is the agony of a million traffic jams now and the ecstasy of knowing something is finally getting built in this town. Toronto is the vertigo that comes from sitting in the golds for a Jays game or the unnatural quiet in the stands at a Leafs game. Toronto is the big-city buzz of the crowd as it streams out of the downtown stadiums toward the subway.

Toronto isn't Rob Ford. Toronto is more than that.

Toronto is the electric hum of a streetcar as it accelerates along Queen Street West – and the hiss of brakes as it slows for some guy turning left in an old Buick. Toronto is the young Samaritan on the rush-hour subway who mildly urges everyone to "scoot along" the car a bit so those on the platform can get on board. Toronto is the echoing vault of that cathedral of transport, the Great Hall at Union Station.

No, Toronto isn't Rob Ford. Toronto is more than that – much more than that.