Doug Ford is being accused of "corrupt and corrupting" behaviour by a fellow city councillor for handing out $20 bills to constituents at a social housing complex for Christmas.
Councillor Gord Perks, who made the statement, is a frequent critic of Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug. Mr. Ford was filmed by a CBC television crew Wednesday night at a Toronto Community Housing building in his Etobicoke ward distributing toys and peeling off $20s from a stack in his hand for the crowd.
Mr. Ford – who has mused many times about running for provincial office – said Thursday when asked about the gifts that he is not running in the next municipal election. It's his choice, he said, about how he spends his money, explaining he handed out cash because he didn't have time to buy gift cards. He estimated he gave out about $200.
"There's no difference in going to Tim Horton's, waiting in line and getting gift certificates," he told The Globe and Mail. "I didn't have time. I went and bought toys for kids. The parents were standing there, so I gave them $20 to go buy themselves a coffee."
Lawyer John Mascarin, an expert in municipal law, said it is not an election period and there is nothing in the city's code of conduct that prohibits giving gifts – just accepting them.
Asked if he plans to formally complain about Mr. Ford's actions, Mr. Perks said he could not even think of the right measure. "It's so far outside of any civilized norm for government behaviour that I can't think of a mechanism that is an appropriate response," he said.
"It is fundamentally corrupt and corrupting," Mr. Perks said. "One of the most dangerous things in a democracy is when elected officials use their money to try to win favour with the public. History has all kinds of examples of how bad things end up at the end of that road. I thought I had lost my capacity to be shocked by the Fords, but I'm shocked."
Mr. Ford said his brother Mayor Rob Ford did not need him to hand out gifts to get support in north Etobicoke. "Everyone knows the Fords are not corrupt," Doug Ford said. "Maybe rough around the edges. Maybe a lot of things. We are not corrupt."
Mr. Ford, who is an executive with the Ford's family business Deco Labels, is also offering $5,000 to help rejuvenate 10 parks in the city, donations he says he is free to make. "He can say all he wants," he said, responding to Mr. Perks' objections. "It's my choice. He can think all the ethics he wants. It doesn't even faze me," Mr. Ford added.
He later told the CBC he was sorry if he offended anyone.
Mr. Perks called the behaviour "beyond the pale."
"Using your personal wealth to win favour with your constituents is the beginning of the end of responsible governance," he said.