Mayor Rob Ford and his brother are defending their weekly radio show, saying it is about “reaching out to the community,” not scoring political points.
Responding to a complaint made last week by Councillor Paul Ainslie to Canada’s broadcast ethics regulator that requested the show be pulled off the air, the brothers said they planned to “take the high ground.”
“Our show is not two hours of knocking the heck out of someone,” said Etobicoke Councillor Doug Ford. “What we are doing is informing the people.”
He said the show provides listeners with “the straight goods of what’s going on,” rather than the “twisted slat,” given by some media.
The mayor suggested while Mr. Ainslie was filing his complaint last week, he was addressing issues in the Scarborough councillor’s ward. “He has a lot of time on his hands,” the mayor said. “His constituents are calling me, went out to his area Friday.”
Mr. Ainslie’s letter to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council argues the weekly show on Newstalk 1010 is being used by the mayor and his brother “to damage and attack the integrity of others with impunity.” The letter also says the brothers are using public airwaves to “actively campaign for political office and use it as a bully pulpit to unfairly have advantage over potential opponents in the upcoming 2014 election.”
Mr. Ainslie, once a loyal ally of the mayor, split with his administration after a vote on plans for a subway extension in Scarborough, which Mr. Ford supported and he did not. Mr. Ainslie left the mayor’s executive, saying he could not support Mr. Ford’s re-election. After Mr. Ford made robo-calls to tell Mr. Ainslie’s constituents about the subway vote, the councillor accused him of being “a bully and a liar,” and said he would complain to the city’s integrity commissioner.
The mayor has made it clear that he intends to run for re-election next year, although his brother has said he is unlikely to run again for councillor, suggesting he would prefer to try his hand in provincial politics. The municipal campaign period begins in January.
Mr. Ainslie’s letter is unlikely to lead to the show’s demise since that is beyond the power of the broadcast council. Still, in their first show since the letter was sent, the mayor and his brother emphasized the positive – spending most of the first hour talking sports, Toronto’s No. 2 spot in a new international ranking and asking listeners to call in to say what they liked most about the city. The mayor handed over $100 to a guest who came on the show to promote a charity fundraising faceoff between Toronto and Vancouver and the mayor read out a long list of community events.
Mr. Ford did touch on the federal by-election battle in Toronto Centre, which the Prime Minister announced on Sunday will be held November 25. He said he is betting on an NDP win. "I just don't see [Liberal leader Justin} Trudeau pulling this one out" the mayor said of the race, which is expected to be a two-way battle between the New Democrats and Liberals.
Mr. Ford said he will support the Conservative candidate, noting that the Liberal and NDP candidates have both worked for Toronto newspapers.
With files from Steve Ladurantaye