Toronto mayoral candidate Doug Ford is defending his management record at his family label business, contending sales are up and all of the firm's divisions are profitable.
During the campaign, the one-term councillor has pointed to his experience as president of Deco Labels and Tags as evidence he is best qualified to manage the public purse. But this Globe and Mail examination of the privately owned business – co-founded in 1962 by Mr. Ford's father – has found that Deco has struggled financially and operationally since the 2008 recession.
The Globe obtained internal financial documents that showed in the two years before Councillor Ford took office, Deco's Canadian and American divisions lost a combined $1.1-million. Court filings connected to a child-support case between Randy Ford – the councillor's older brother and one of Deco's three owners – shows that between 2007 and 2010 the annual shareholders bonus fell by $685,000. And six sources, who spoke to The Globe on condition of anonymity, said mismanagement, family infighting and delays continue to plague the Toronto division, although Chicago has recovered.
Two former employees, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, raised questions about Mr. Ford's decision to purchase distressed Wise Tag and Label in New Jersey. The ex-staffers said the New Jersey foray has been a drain on Deco and is an example of Mr. Ford's impulsiveness and inability to plan.
Mr. Ford did not respond to The Globe's interview requests for the article, which was published Saturday.
Asked about the article on Monday, Mr. Ford boasted about Deco to reporters. The company has offices in Toronto, Chicago and New Jersey.
"We're one of the few printing companies out there that are totally self-financed. We've never taken a loan from the bank," he said.
"We built a company from absolutely scratch, with nothing," Mr. Ford continued. "I'm proud to say that each one of our divisions is a profitable division and we're creating 250 jobs."
Mr. Ford turned the focus to mayoral front-runner, John Tory, attacking Mr. Tory's business experience. The pair and mayoral candidate Olivia Chow were at the Daily Bread Food Bank in west Toronto, spending about an hour packing food into boxes with scores of volunteers.
With the vote two weeks away and advance polls opening Tuesday, the trio spent Thanksgiving on the campaign trail. At a supporter's home north of downtown, Mr. Tory was joined by federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, who offered a public endorsement of his bid.
"John is someone we [the federal government] can work with," said Ms. Raitt, who does not live in Toronto and represents the riding of Halton, Ont. "He has a proven track record."
Mr. Tory's opponents have criticized his transportation plans, dubbed SmartTrack, questioning the cost and technical challenges. Mr. Tory proposes to build 53 kilometres of rail and 22 stations at a cost of $8-billion. SmartTrack, the centrepiece of his campaign, would require provincial and federal funding to move ahead.
Ms. Raitt declined to weigh in on Mr. Tory's SmartTrack proposal when asked Monday. She said she wasn't in a position to say whether his plan would receive federal support, noting the responsibility for such funding rests with the infrastructure minister.
"That being said, we want to make sure that people start moving around this city because everybody knows that gridlock takes such a bite out of our competitiveness," Ms. Raitt said.
Mr. Tory, former leader of the provincial Progressive Conservatives, deflected Mr. Ford's criticism of his business experience and took aim at the councillor's attendance record for votes and at his tumultuous tenure as vice-chairman of Build Toronto.
In an e-mail, Mr. Tory said Mr. Ford's management of Deco illustrates he has difficulty getting along with others.
"This election is about who can work with others to get results," Mr. Tory said.
"If Doug Ford cannot get along with people in his own business, how does he think he'll be able to work constructively with his fellow councillors to get things done at city hall?"
Ms. Chow, who is trailing in opinion polls, challenged Mr. Ford to be more transparent and said both he and Mr. Tory need to assure the public they won't mix public and private interests. A former NDP MP, she criticized Mr. Tory's platform, contending he hasn't detailed how much all of his promises will cost the city.