Stephen Harper is playing down a planned Saturday campaign rally's connection to Rob Ford after explosive allegations from a new book about the controversial ex-Toronto mayor were made public.
Rob Ford and his brother Doug are helping to organize a Toronto-area rally for the Harper campaign on Saturday, and Doug has said in media interviews that they would be drawing on "Ford Nation" – a name for their family's political supporters.
The Conservatives have said they're grateful to have the support of the Fords, including Rob Ford, who admitted to smoking crack while in office.
But Mark Towhey, Rob Ford's ex-chief of staff, has already made public an excerpt from a book on his time with the former mayor that details a "no-holds barred screaming fest" at the Ford family house in June, 2012. The excerpt was published by Maclean's magazine on its website.
Mr. Towhey, who was later fired by Mr. Ford, said he received a phone call from the then-mayor in the middle of the night that had him ready to call 911 if necessary.
"My left thumb hovers over the 'Enter' button on my iPhone, ready to summon the police," Mr. Towhey, who says he was taking notes, writes. "My heart is pounding. I hear blood rushing through my neck. I lean forward, mouth open, straining to hear what's going on in Rob Ford's house."
He recounts arguing between Rob Ford and his wife. "I don't know if he's making s--- up. I can't tell what's really happening from what fantasies he's spinning." Mr. Ford says to his wife, Renata: "We've got you cornered like a rat."
Mr. Towhey then writes that Ford yelled: "I'm going to give you five dollars see … [incoherent] … or I'm putting three bullets in your head. You're pinched. I'll pump you full ... [again incoherent]."
Asked Thursday if he was comfortable associating himself with Mr. Ford in light of Mr. Towhey's book, Mr. Harper suggested reporters call Rob Ford about the matter.
He said the Saturday rally is a Conservative Party event designed for anybody who supports his policies.
"The rally you have … talked about is a rally of the Conservative Party of Canada. We are bringing together all Canadians who want to fight for an agenda of low taxes and balanced budgets to keep our party moving forward," the Conservative Leader said.
Doug Ford has taken credit for organizing the rally. "We're going to have 55 [Greater Toronto Area] ridings involved, Ford Nation, you name it. It's going to be a packed house," he told the Toronto Sun this week.
Rob Ford, who has undergone treatment for a rare form of cancer, is a divisive figure among voters, but has retained a loyal block of supporters – even after admitting he had smoked crack cocaine following months of denial.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, under fire for an ethical lapse in his own party, lashed out at Mr. Harper over his alliance with the Fords.
"Stephen Harper should be embarrassed that he's having to count on the support of Rob Ford for his re-election," Mr. Trudeau said.
He argued it was hypocritical for the tough-on-crime Conservatives to be aligned with Rob Ford, whose crack problems have been widely documented.
"What bothers me most is the misogyny. The Ford brothers should have no place on a national campaign stage, much less hosting a prime minister at an event this weekend. That is just completely irresponsible," the Liberal Leader said.
Earlier this week, on Tuesday, the Ford brothers turned up to support Mr. Harper at the Conservative Leader's morning campaign stop in Toronto.
Their arrival at the Etobicoke event was publicly hailed by host Ted Opitz, a local Conservative candidate seeking re-election, when he welcomed the "two great sons of Etobicoke."
Mr. Harper made no mention of the Ford brothers during his address and did not embrace or shake hands with them publicly. Conservative officials said the Tory Leader met with the Fords backstage.