Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is refusing to condemn homophobic and sexist remarks by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
On a day when leaders from all sides of the political spectrum lined up to deride Mr. Ford's comments in an audio tape, Mr. Hudak conspicuously tried to avoid saying anything when repeatedly asked about the subject during a scrum with reporters in the provincial budget lockup.
"I understand that you've got stories you're going to file on that. I've made my comments about Mr. Ford, what my advice is, what he should do. I've got nothing more to add to that today," he said.
In the mayor's profanity-laden tirade, which was obtained and published by the Toronto Sun, Mr. Ford said he will not vote for Mr. Hudak because the PC party voted in favour of flying a rainbow flag at Queen's Park during the Sochi Olympics. The mayor also made a lewd comment about rival candidate Karen Stintz.
During the awkward half-hour scrum in the lockup, Mr. Hudak grew visibly annoyed as reporters pressed him on Mr. Ford.
"Jesus," he said in frustration when asked about his stance on homophobia. "Against, obviously … I'm not going to play a game here and talk about more than I've already said on the topic."
Mr. Hudak would only repeat that Mr. Ford should "put his family first" and seek help.
Mr. Ford announced Thursday he would enter rehab after both the Sun tape and a video – viewed by The Globe and Mail – emerged showing him smoking what appears to be crack cocaine.
Premier Kathleen Wynne and New Democrats Leader Andrea Horwath both criticized Mr. Ford's words in no uncertain terms.
"Comments like these are unacceptable under any circumstance," Ms. Wynne said in a statement. "Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs doesn't excuse repulsive remarks."
Ms. Horwath tweeted: "Rob Ford's comments are offensive and hurtful. I hope rehab will be his first step towards taking responsibility for his words and actions."
All three parties agreed to fly a rainbow flag during the Olympics as a sign of support for LGBT people, who are the target of a hateful law in Russia.
Mr. Hudak reaffirmed his party's support for the LGBT community, even as he dodged questions on Mr. Ford.
"I've made my comments on that with respect to the flying of the flag for the Sochi Olympics," he said. "I stand by what we decided to do in our party. It's the right thing to do. I've got nothing to add."
Mr. Hudak's party has a long and complicated relationship with Mr. Ford and his family. The mayor's brother, Councillor Doug Ford, wanted to run for the PCs provincially, much to the chagrin of party insiders.
Tory sources, however, conceded they did not want to publicly oppose Doug Ford or his brother, for fear of angering their voter base.