It's a political promise that few politicians make, but Paul Ainslie, a prominent candidate for city council in Scarborough, has already broken it.
Mr. Ainslie promised not to run at all in Toronto's Nov. 13 municipal election. Despite that campaign-limiting move, his bid to replace Councillor David Soknacki in Scarborough East is in full swing.
The candidate made the unorthodox promise to city council in January, in the process of being appointed temporary replacement for Bas Balkissoon in nearby Scarborough-Rouge River (Ward 41), after Mr. Balkissoon left council for provincial politics.
According to a video of his speech in the council chamber on Jan. 31, Mr. Ainslie said: "In the last month, I've made a number of different commitments if appointed to this position. I will not run in Ward 41, or any other ward in the city."
But months later, Mr. Ainslie -- who took leave from his job as an aide to Mr. Soknacki -- decided to run in Scarborough East (Ward 43), after his boss announced his surprise departure in August.
Since then, Mr. Ainslie, who has also been criticized for asking voters to "return" him to council in his literature although he is not the incumbent, has maintained he promised only not to run in Ward 41.
Confronted with an account of his January speech yesterday, he said: "That's not what I meant. . . . I meant in Scarborough, against a sitting incumbent councillor."
He said he was trying to reassure councillors he wouldn't use his appointment as a platform to run against them. But he acknowledged his "words weren't clear enough," saying he was nervous the night of his speech.
But Mr. Ainslie said he has no intention of leaving the race.
"I think I am someone whose word can be trusted. . . . If people want to call me on it, I'll be more than happy to explain it."
One of his opponents, a 20-year-old student and local Liberal activist named John Laforet, sent out a mass e-mail yesterday, linking to the video of Mr. Ainslie's statement.
Mr. Laforet said Mr. Ainslie clearly broke his pledge and demanded that he either return the paycheques he received as a fill-in councillor or withdraw from the race in Scarborough East.
Mr. Laforet, who saw the footage after requesting a DVD of the council speech from city hall, said Mr. Ainslie's actions were "not unlike lying on a résumé.
"He's certainly misleading councillors and misleading residents," Mr. Laforet said in an interview.
Mr. Ainslie accused his opponent of playing politics: "If that's how he wants to spin it, it's an election, that's his right." He later added: "He's doing just about everything he can to discredit my campaign."