Ontario Tory Leader Tim Hudak is lining up with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother in a bid to gain a critical foothold in Toronto – putting aside efforts by some in his party to distance themselves from the controversial duo.
Mr. Hudak stood side-by-side with the mayor and Etobicoke Councillor Doug Ford as they kicked off the by-election campaign of Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday on Monday in Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
Mr. Holyday is squaring off against a fellow councillor, Peter Milczyn, the Liberal candidate in the Aug. 1 vote.
While Mr. Hudak took credit for "arm twisting" Mr. Holyday, the former mayor of Etobicoke, to jump to provincial politics, he was less committal when asked whether he would do the same for the mayor and his brother – who has made it clear he has ambitions of serving at Queen's Park.
"I am always looking for future candidates," Mr. Hudak said.
The mayor is facing accusations that he was caught in an alleged video smoking crack cocaine, charges he denies. The Globe and Mail reported this spring that Doug Ford was a high-volume hashish dealer in the 1980s, charges he also has denied. Since those reports, the provincial Tories have been less enthusiastic about Councillor Ford running provincially, with the House Leader Jim Wilson saying Mr. Ford "is not our candidate."
By choosing Mr. Holyday as their star candidate, a figure closely associated with the Ford administration, the provincial Tories will find it difficult to keep that distance. Both the mayor and Doug Ford said they will be canvassing for Mr. Holyday, whom they described as a close family friend.
"They need him desperately at Queen's Park right now," the mayor said. "I don't support a government that just blows millions of billions of dollars."
Doug Ford called the combination of Mr. Hudak, Mr. Holyday, himself and the mayor as "a force to be reckoned with in the City of Toronto."
The thousands that came out to a Scarborough park Friday night for a party hosted by the family is evidence of the Ford family's clout, the councillor said, predicting they will draw an even bigger crowd at a similar event in Etobicoke in September.
"I think we are pretty popular in Etobicoke," Councillor Ford said.
Mr. Holyday, when asked, made no apologies for his association with the Fords. "You are who you are and I am the deputy mayor of Rob Ford and I'm proud of it," he said. "We've done a great job down at city hall."