Toronto mayoral candidate Doug Ford unveiled new attack ads on Wednesday slamming John Tory's past involvement with a U.S. cable company that filed for bankruptcy protection, charges that his rival's campaign was ready to dispute with a statement from the firm's co-founder.
Mr. Ford said there is a "glaring omission" on the résumé of Mr. Tory, who sat on the board of directors, as well as the board's audit committee, of Charter Communications from 2001 to 2009, when the company filed for bankruptcy protection.
"John Tory presided over [Charter Communications] for one of the largest bankruptcies in U.S. history," Mr. Ford told reporters. "In the end, employees lost their jobs. The company's shareholders, the common people who had invested their hard-earned money, lost almost everything and then John just got up and walked away. These are the lost years in John Tory's résumé."
Mr. Tory's campaign, clearly expecting the charges, immediately handed out a statement from Paul Allen, co-founder of Charter Communications as well as Microsoft, praising his former board member and exonerating him from having a hand in the firm's financial troubles.
"Charter Communications filing for creditor protection arose from events that predated John's time and any implication otherwise is inaccurate," said the statement from Mr. Allen – the 27th-richest man in the United States, according to Forbes magazine.
Mr. Tory responded with questions about Mr. Ford's own employment history.
"I would stack my résumé up against Doug Ford's any day of the week," he told reporters.
"I came in to try and clean up a very difficult situation," he said, describing his role on the Charter board. "I am quite proud of my résumé. It is what it is, set up for all to see."
He later added: "Look at Mr. Ford. … Attack, attack, attack. That's because I think he knows there are huge holes in his own résumé."
Mr. Tory's time with Charter Communications is not mentioned on his campaign website or his LinkedIn profile.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Tory's campaign said his time at Charter is a matter of public record and he has spoken about it openly. Asked about the absence of any reference to the company on his LinkedIn profile or campaign website, Amanda Galbraith said they do not "contain an exhaustive list of all John's charitable and business activities because that would take pages and pages."
According to regulatory filings of the St. Louis-based company, Mr. Tory announced an intention to resign in 2005, after winning a seat in the Ontario Legislature as Progressive Conservative leader. He was re-elected as a director each year until the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors in 2009.
Asked about Mr. Allen's statement, Mr. Ford said: "You don't all of the sudden file bankruptcy in 2009 and you sit on the board from 2001 to 2009 and say he had nothing to do with it. Twenty billion dollars … by the way, is one of the largest bankruptcies in North American history. You don't let that happen sitting on the board for eight years and just get up and walk away from it."
Mr. Ford unveiled commercials – featuring a storybook and a female narrator – attacking Mr. Tory's role at Charter Communications and also linking the former Rogers executive to the negative-option billing controversy, a public relations fiasco wherein Rogers Communication charged its customers for services unless they declined them.
"It's the same old story, Mr. Tory. You may have been part of sinking the company, but the people won't stand by and let you sink our city," say Mr. Ford's ads, which will begin airing on Thursday.
In a later statement, the Tory campaign addressed Mr. Ford's assertion that Mr. Tory had a hand in negative-option billing by Rogers.
"Doug is not being honest with regard to John's time at Rogers," the statement said, quoting Rogers vice-chairman Phil Lind to clarify that Mr. Tory "was not even working at Rogers" in January of 1995 when the company reversed the practice.
"John joined Rogers in February of 1995 as the president of Rogers Media – a separate division from our cable unit," Mr. Lind is quoted as saying.
With a report from Jeff Gray.