Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has gone from defending cuts to denying birds.
Tuesday, the mayor took to social media to rebut a claim that he gave a woman and her young daughter the finger while talking on the phone in his car.
Just after 2:30 p.m., a message posted on the mayor’s Twitter feed, @TOMayorFord, and his Facebook page read: “A story published that while I was on the phone I made a rude gesture to a fellow driver is not accurate. This is a misunderstanding.”
The mayor’s press secretary Adrienne Batra confirms that Mr. Ford was using his cell, but says he did not give the finger.
“He was on the phone. He did not give anyone a rude gesture. That’s where we believe the misunderstanding took place,” she said. “Yes, he admitted he was on his cell phone. He is a very busy guy. The phone is ringing constantly.”
Toronto Police said they would not charge Mr. Ford with talking on his handheld cellphone while driving, which is illegal in Ontario.
A Toronto mother named Ottilie Mason made the claim in a Facebook posting that Mr. Ford had flipped her off. Ms. Mason said she was driving on Dundas Street at 9 p.m. Friday when she and her six-year-old daughter saw the mayor talking on his cellphone in his minivan at the corner of Spadina Avenue.
They gave him a thumbs-down and told him to get off his phone.
Ms. Mason said Mr. Ford then gave them the finger and mouthed obscenities through the window of his car.
“I find this kind of behaviour really unbecoming of a mayor who not only is in charge of the largest metropolitan municipality in Canada, is supposed to follow the laws of that city, set an example, and serve and respect the rights and lives of its citizens,” she wrote.
The story was widely circulated via Twitter, and some users responded to Mr. Ford’s post, asking him to explain the misunderstanding.
It’s illegal in Ontario to use handheld cellphones and other electronic devices while driving. Fines can be as high as $500, although drivers are permitted to use the gadgets if they employ headsets and voice dialling.
Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash says police don’t retroactively pursue charges for cellphone driving because it eats up resources. He said that no charges have been pursued against other motorists who admitted after-the-fact to driving while talking on the phone, and they are giving equal treatment to the mayor.
“We haven’t had a case where we felt it was necessary or appropriate to take the matter any further,” Mr. Pugash said.
“There are some logistical problems with doing it after the fact but if it was a situation where we felt it was appropriate we’d certainly consider it.”
With reports from The Canadian Press, Adrian Morrow and Jill Mahoney