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Weizhen Tang, a professed fan of former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman, has promised smaller government and more foreign investment in his platform for the city's mayoral race. (Deborah Baic/Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
Weizhen Tang, a professed fan of former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman, has promised smaller government and more foreign investment in his platform for the city's mayoral race. (Deborah Baic/Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

Candidate

Alleged fraud artist running for mayor Add to ...

Weizhen Tang can't sit down.

He's propelled off his couch and onto his feet by the power of his own rhetoric -  face animated, hands gesticulating and fingers curled as though as though physically grasping ideas, voice rising above the CNN broadcast playing on the wall-mounted flat-screen TV in the dining room.

The trader and alleged Ponzi schemer, accused of defrauding investors of tens of millions, is running for mayor.

Sure, the Ontario Securities Commission is after him. Yes, he's charged with multiple counts of fraud, has another court date two days after the Oct. 25 election and is preparing to file a motion accusing his accusers of defamation. A statement of claim against the OSC and others sits on his dining room table, beside ward maps and stacks of campaign posters.

But in the months since he was released on bail, he's been doing some thinking. He, Weizhen Tang - the man who calls himself the "Chinese Warren Buffett," has written a book about the secret to his "one-per-cent-a-week" success and keeps a treasured plaque of recognition from the Chinese Overseas Friendship Association alongside a portrait of Mao Zedong in his Willowdale home - is the only one who can fix Toronto City Hall.

Mr. Tang, who professes himself to be a fan of colourful former mayor Mel Lastman, promises small government, trillions in foreign investment and a city that would capitalize better on allophone immigrants, those whose first language is neither French nor English.

Oh, and he would get rid of the OSC.

Fraud? Don't get him started.

Why are you running?

Why am I running? Power is very important. You see, I'm doing my business so well, so successfully, but somebody who has power can put me into jail. I don't want to be in jail. I want to run my business, I want to work for Torontonians. I also want to work for investors, for new immigrants. I want to make power not corrupt.

Do you think City Hall is corrupt right now?

I think so. Everybody talks about issues. TTC, traffic jams. But no one wants to talk about what's really wrong. You know what's really wrong?

What is really wrong?

What's really wrong is we don't have real politicians. Politicians know the system. Politicians have ambitions. Politicians have dedication, you know? Experience. Ideas! You see? … We don't have leadership. You find something, you lead. And everybody follows.

Have you ever run for political office before?

No. I'm busy. I was trying to make billions of dollars. Then police say, 'You cannot raise funds.' It's ridiculous.

So you're running because you're not allowed to raise money for investors any more?

No, no, no. Temporarily.

Do you think the charges against you will hinder your campaign at all?

If you're some average people, it's a big obstacle. A very big obstacle. If you're somebody who has the power to change this … one month into the [mayor's]job, maybe I can get rid of all these negative things.

If I can mobilize Torontonians, the public, to see a leader, to see hope, to see the need, to see what's going wrong, if everybody loves me, do you think the judgment [against me]is still valid?

So how will you mobilize Toronto voters? How will you get your message out?

Well, you're here to help me. Most people … never do something this big. I ran something huge: A trillion-dollar business. Toronto is only a $9-billion business. That's small, to me.

Was your lawyer worried about you running?

Oh, my lawyer is worried. That's the one problem. Every lawyer always worries! I say, if I did not do something wrong, how can the political system, the legal system incriminate me? Lawyers are very careful about wording - how you say it, what you say. All lawyers worry about small things. But if you do something wrong, you need to prove it in court. … This is free speech. I'm very smart, you know. Toronto is lucky to have somebody like me.

What do you think about the other candidates?

I'll show you how to compare the other candidates. Robert Ford, he's nice. A gentleman, you know? But he's not a mayor for the city of Toronto. He doesn't waste the budget, right? He doesn't spend too much money. [But]he's talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual fees - that's small. Toronto's a $9-billion business. [We need to]attract trillions of dollars in business from around the world. That's the money you want.

George Smitherman? He's good. But you know what? Do you know e-Health? It wasted billions of dollars! Do you want him to waste another billion?

We want small government. We want good business. Small business, private business. We want more dynamic government. … The key is this: Always private. Private economy. Small business. Small hospitals - efficient ones.

Everyone thinks regulation is what we need. It's not! If you got rid of the OSC, you could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

So you'd like to get rid of the OSC?

Yeah.

As mayor, can you do that?

No. But I can influence. … It's the damage to the economy that's important. I don't hate them - there's no point. That's called revenge, and a politician doesn't take revenge, right? They do their job, I respect them. But I see they have a detrimental effect on the economy.

What do you think about the charges against you?

They're wrong. They're totally ridiculous. … You know Bre-X? That's real fraud. That's why I think we want a better government.

When did you decide to run?

Oh, that's a very good question! When I was in jail, a few days after they arrested me, I read an article in the Toronto Sun: Adam [Giambrone] TTC chair, wants to run for mayor. But there are lots of sex scandals about him. He's running for mayor?

When I got out of jail I was prepared. I thought very hard about what was wrong with the city, why I want to run for mayor.

So what's next?

You will see lots of surprises. I have to make news every day to make people interested - that's the key, you know? I will have lots of stories for you. You will love it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

 

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