2014 Hero: Shirtless Jogger
Nominated for: spontaneously giving our former mayor a piece of his mind.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—the people, places, things, and ideas that have had the most positive and negative impacts on the city over the past 12 months. Cast your ballot until 5 p.m. on December 30. At noon on December 31, we’ll reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
The best part of Joe Killoran‘s magnificent, bare-chested encounter with Rob Ford at the East York Canada Day parade this summer came in the first few seconds of the svelte-looking teacher’s spontaneous diatribe. Killoran, now better known as #ShirtlessJogger, didn’t let the then-mayor’s recent return from rehab distract him from aiming his attack exactly where it was most needed: Ford’s outsized and largely baseless reputation for defending taxpayers.
“What about my taxpayer dollars you give to your own business?” Killoran began, slipping through the crowd and sidling up to the mayor. Ford’s face instantly froze into the smiling grimace he’d already worn for much of the parade, as hecklers called out to him from lawns and sidewalks.
But just when you thought this unexpected confrontation would descend into ugly spectacle, Killoran did something incredible—he referenced a conflict-of-interest case dating all the way back to the beginning of Ford’s mayoralty. During his first two years in office, Rob worked to help Apollo Health and Beauty Care, a valuable client of the Ford family’s label and tag business, obtain more land for a parking lot, lobby for tax breaks, and deal with a sewage-spill investigation. While those efforts were apparently unsuccessful, Killoran rightly demanded, “What about Apollo Beauty?” before launching into the refrain that resounded across news outlets and Twitter feeds for days to come: “Answer the questions!”
What makes Killoran’s point about Rob’s hypocrisy and back-room dealing so beautiful is all the other points he didn’t make. By the time Killoran jogged inadvertently into a face-off with the Ford brothers, the crack saga and all its related scandals had so clouded over the mayoralty, one could almost forget there was an actual job associated with it. Doug wasn’t above deflecting the criticism, accusing Killoran of making racial slurs against Rob. “You can be racist against people that eat little red apples,” Doug explained afterward. That outlandish defence only served to confirm what the rest of us already knew—that the Shirtless Jogger had hit the Fords where it hurt.
But maybe the best part of this showdown wasn’t Killoran’s incisive focus on the most important issues. Maybe it was the fact that he straightforwardly named Rob a “corrupt, lying, racist, homophobe.” Or maybe it was how he swatted away the business card that was offered to him. Or it could have been the way the CBC cameraperson panned appraisingly up and down Killoran’s body when he exclaimed, “Do I look like I’m part of a campaign?” Or it might have been watching all those smug, dismissive grins die on the faces of the Fords and their supporters as Killoran said his piece. Whatever the case, for channelling his outrage into a stream of intelligent and passionate criticism, and for doing what many wanted to do better than most could have hoped to do it, the Shirtless Jogger is a true Toronto hero of 2014.