Rob Ford says he was showing “leadership” when he blitzed a Scarborough ward with robo-calls, but the councillor targeted by the automated message calls it “political thuggery” and says the mayor is a “bully and a liar.”
Councillor Paul Ainslie said Tuesday the mayor crossed a line when he “carpet-bombed” his ward with the robo-calls last week, and he plans to take his case to the city’s integrity commissioner. The mayor’s response: He was just doing his job.
The verbal donnybrook is the latest issue to polarize city councillors and the newest sign of the bad blood between the mayor and Mr. Ainslie – once a strong ally.
Mr. Ainslie was the only Scarborough councillor to vote last week against plans to replace the Scarborough RT with the subway extension favoured by the mayor. He introduced an unsuccessful motion at council to stick with the original light rail plan. Mr. Ainslie resigned Friday from Mr. Ford’s executive committee in the aftermath of that vote, and the robo-call went out to residents of Mr. Ainslie’s Scarborough ward that night.
After a long weekend in which the mayor used his radio show to defend the calls and vowed to make more, Mr. Ainslie held a news conference to say the bad behaviour has to stop.
“I am here to start the fight back against a bully and a liar,” Mr. Ainslie said.
“This mayor – and his brother – will use whatever means or platform they have to demonize those who point out the apparent truth when they’ve stepped over it,” he said later. “Well, let me tell the Ford brothers this: ‘I’m not scared of you.’”
The mayor responded saying he did nothing wrong. “That’s my job – to tell taxpayers how their money is being spent. I don’t know what he is so upset about,” he said.
Mr. Ford said he wrote and recorded his message in his office Friday at the urging of his brother, Councillor Doug Ford. He said he is covering the “few hundred bucks” it cost.
“I don’t know what I did wrong here,” the mayor told reporters. “My brother came up with the idea and I did it probably as soon as we finished council. I wrote out a script, bounced it off some people, taped a message and it went out probably five minutes after I did it.”
Asked about being labelled as a bully and a liar, Mr. Ford responded: “For telling people how their money is being spent. That’s leadership.”
Doug Ford said his brother has the right to “use his phone” to inform the people of Toronto. “We”ll see what the integrity commissioner says, but I don’t see anything wrong with making a phone call telling his constituents how he voted,” he said.
Toronto lawyer John Mascarin, a municipal expert, said council’s code of conduct prohibits the use of city hall resources and equipment for election-related activity and addresses “discreditable conduct,” which includes bullying and intimidation. Whether the calls violate these sections is not clear, he said, but likely call for an examination by the integrity commissioner.
In a copy of the call obtained by The Globe and Mail, the mayor says “It was extremely, extremely unfortunate that your councillor, Paul Ainslie, was the only Scarborough councillor who did not listen to his constituents and voted against the Scarborough subway.”
Councillor Jaye Robinson, who was dismissed from Mr. Ford’s executive earlier this year after she suggested the mayor should take a leave to address his personal issues, said the tone of the call is clearly critical of Mr. Ainslie. “There is nothing positive about it,” she said. “It was a tactic of intimidation.”
Councillor John Parker expressed dismay at the comments coming from both sides. “I think the best way to respond is to rise above it and not engage in name-calling or snivelling,” he said.