Rob Ford's campaign took steps to ensure John Tory wouldn't enter the mayoral race - and it worked, the mayor-elect's campaign manager says.
Mr. Tory, who first announced he wasn't running for mayor in January, 2010, says he's flattered someone thought he warranted the attention but wasn't rattled by attempts to reinforce a decision he'd already made.
The campaign had someone from Mr. Ford's team phone up Mr. Tory's radio show to slag him on the air as part of a four-point strategy to ensure he didn't run, Nick Kouvalis told a room of the electorally curious Friday morning. The breakfast gave campaign managers from the mayoral race a chance to discuss their strategies.
"They were talking about some issue that had nothing to do with the campaign, but the first call they took was from one of our guys," Mr. Kouvalis said. "That person called into the radio show and challenged John's integrity, and then John decided not to get in the race. And that was a huge victory for Rob. We kept John out and Rob won because of it."
The fictitious woman who phoned up Mr. Tory's radio show to impugn his integrity identified herself as Karen Philby.
That was the same name fronting a Twitter account that Ford campaign staffer Fraser Macdonald created to trick an HIV-positive man suffering from chronic pain into giving up a recording of Mr. Ford offering to "score" him street OxyContin.
In one of its animated promotional YouTube videos, Mr. Ford's campaign depicted Mr. Tory, whose non-candidacy remained a hot topic throughout the 11-month mayoral race, as a weakling superhero unable to stop the "gravy train" Mr. Ford spent his campaign railing against. The cartoon ends with Mr. Ford, cape flying behind him, bringing the locomotive to a halt.
"Most people wouldn't even catch that," Mr. Kouvalis said, "but I knew it would irritate John. And it did."
The campaign to derail any possibility of a John Tory mayoral bid also involved having campaign press secretary Adrienne Batra phone his radio show and bring up his promise as Progressive Conservative leader to fund religious schools - a politically disastrous suggestion that many claim lost him both the provincial election and his position as Progressive Conservative leader.
Councillor Peter Milczyn, who had been encouraging Mr. Tory to run but later threw his support behind Mr. Ford, said the strategy doesn't make him think less of Mr. Ford as a mayor.
"Politics is a dirty business," he said. "I think they ran an excellent campaign. It was a very disciplined, focused campaign."
Mr. Kouvalis, who is now the mayor-elect's chief of staff, defended the campaign's shadier tactics. Moreover, he said, Mr. Tory is a supporter who has offered his help in Mr. Ford's administration.
"John's come and said he wants to help, in whatever capacity - well, maybe not any capacity, but almost any capacity I can fit him into. I've talked to him about what he wants to do, I've talked to mayor-elect Ford, he's ecstatic."
Not so fast, Mr. Tory said later Friday. Sure, he offered to help in any way he could when he called the campaign to congratulate Mr. Ford on his landslide victory. But the former PC leader and chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance says he explicitly turned down the offer of a full-time or paid position.
"They said, 'Would you come take a full-time job here?' I said, 'No. I don't think so.' … I'm not going to go into much more detail."
But he insists the Ford campaign's tactics didn't change his mind - they only reinforced his conviction that the city's political scene is too mean-spirited and sordid to accomplish anything constructive.
"I'm a big boy. I've been around politics for 40 years," he said. "I look at this stuff as being part of a much broader malaise infecting the political world right now."