A day after Rob Ford’s stinging defeat over control of the TTC, councillors and the mayor’s own election guru are singling out his brother, suggesting Councillor Doug Ford’s gaffes and bluster have alienated natural supporters.
Gloria Lindsay Luby, a conservative from Etobicoke, is precisely the kind of swing voter the Ford administration should win to its side on key votes. Yet when she sided with the rebel councillors who upended Mayor Ford’s subway plan last month, a furious Doug Ford warned her assistant that he would work to defeat her in 2014 as payback.
“Basically, [Doug Ford]said that he’s going to ‘execute’ me in the next election,” Ms. Lindsay Luby said Tuesday, adding he used an expletive to punctuate his point.
Councillor Ford has since apologized “profusely,” Ms. Lindsay Luby said.
The outburst is just one example of the mayor’s own brother making it harder to press his agenda.
“I think sometimes he speaks before he thinks,” Ms. Lindsay Luby said. “I don’t think he’s helped Rob at all.”
The Ford brothers have always been close personally. Councillor Ford at first refused to respond to his critics Tuesday, but when he did, it was to say he would happily absorb blows to protect the mayor.
“I’ll be the one thrown underneath the bus. I don’t mind. I’m his brother,” Councillor Ford said. “I’ll be the one with the tire marks. Don’t worry about me.” (He declined, through his office, to respond directly to Ms. Lindsay Luby’s allegations.)
Some of the mayor’s allies have had long-standing concerns about Councillor Ford’s missteps – including his musing last summer about erecting a monorail in the Port Lands and his professing not to know of Margaret Atwood.
The mayor and his lookalike big brother often appear together, co-hosting a weekly radio show and joining forces in a weight-loss contest. It’s sometimes unclear which Ford speaks on behalf of the administration.
Those concerns broke into the open Tuesday after Mr. Ford’s allies were swept off the TTC board in favour of a pro-light-rail board, with even the mayor’s former chief of staff urging the councillor to shun the limelight and let his brother govern.
“Whenever he [Doug Ford]calls me to ask for advice, I’m always telling him to take a back seat,” Nick Kouvalis, who left the mayor’s office last year, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
“He means well,” Mr. Kouvalis said. “He’s not out to get his brother.”
Nonetheless, the rookie politician’s actions last week may have undermined the mayor’s efforts to line up votes for his plan to build a subway on Sheppard Avenue East, councillors say. Council is set to vote on Sheppard’s future March 21.
The mayor invited more than half a dozen centrist councillors into his office for meetings on what kind of taxes or levies they might support to pay for subway construction.
Several councillors told The Globe they were impressed the mayor reached out and indicated he was willing to consider options like a parking levy – a risk for the rabidly anti-tax chief magistrate.
But as the delicate negotiations progressed, Councillor Ford told the media that a lottery or a casino could pay for the subway, a signal that the Ford administration wasn’t serious about funding a subway.
Then Councillor Ford took to the airwaves Sunday to disparage councillors’ business acumen, a mistake in Mr. Kouvalis’s view.
“I really hope you quote me on this part because it’s important,” Mr. Kouvalis said. “You had councillors who made a decision to vote for the light-rail transit at-grade on the east side of Eglinton [Feb. 8] You can’t … expect them to come back and vote for you on other issues when you go out and say things like, you ‘wouldn’t let them run your daughter’s lemonade stand.’ You can’t do that.”
The mayor, meanwhile, has been much more disciplined since winning the city’s top job than he was as a gadfly councillor.
“Doug means well,” said Councillor Peter Milczyn, a member of the mayor’s executive. “He doesn’t have the experience and the discipline that people who have been around elected office for a longer period of time have. The mayor has it now.”
That’s leading some councillors, like centrist Josh Colle, to focus on what they hear directly from the mayor, not his brother.
“I try and deal with the mayor and recognize there is only one mayor and try and operate on that premise,” Mr. Colle said.