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Toronto's Chief Budget Officer Councillor Frank Di Giorgio shares a moment with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford during a budget meeting at City Hall in Toronto, January 30, 2014. (AARON HARRIS/REUTERS)
Toronto's Chief Budget Officer Councillor Frank Di Giorgio shares a moment with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford during a budget meeting at City Hall in Toronto, January 30, 2014. (AARON HARRIS/REUTERS)

Budget chair explains Rob Ford 'ticklefest' pic Add to ...

It was not all sharp words and political point-scoring during this week’s two-day budget debate at Toronto city council.

While councillors sparred over spending, Mayor Rob Ford and the man he appointed to chair the budget committee, Frank Di Giorgio, were photographed on Thursday sharing a moment at the front of the chamber to the side of the Speaker’s chair.

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Mr. Di Giorgio, traditionally an ally of the city’s controversial mayor, has faced a barrage of criticism from Mr. Ford, who called the spending plan the councillor had worked on for months “the worst budget ever.”

While it looked in the photograph like the veteran councillor was tickling the mayor, Mr. Di Giorgio said that is not exactly what happened.

“It looks like a ticklefest, but that’s not what it was,” Mr. Di Giorgio explained on Friday after the photo drew attention on websites including The Globe and Mail.

“He has been angry with me because I’ve been promoting something other than what he wanted.”

To help get over that, Mr. Di Giorgio, who, like the mayor, has coached high school football, said he asked Mr. Ford if he wanted to line up against him in a “three-point stance,” like players on a scrimmage line.

When he put out his hands, he knocked the mayor into the wall, and that, he said, is what was captured by the cameras.

Mr. Ford, who has been working out and has shed 40 pounds, is by far the heavyweight of the pair, but Mr. Di Giorgio figures he would be the winner on the football field if it came to that.

“I have way more dexterity,” he said.

In the end, the budget chair took the unusual step of voting with the mayor and against his own budget. Mr. Di Giorgio said he wanted a lower tax increase than the 2.23 per cent council approved and also wanted a reduction to the land transfer tax.

“Because of that, I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to vote against it,’” he said. “I knew it was going to carry anyway.”

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