Mayor Rob Ford and the municipal election race threatened once again to distract from regular city council business on a day that saw multiple allegations of "dirty" campaigning – as well as a bizarre accusation against a member of the mayor's team of kicking a protester.
The chaotic day – which included skirmishes between the mayor and protesters, and Councillor Doug Ford's claim that the protesters had been "planted" by rivals – came after a poll showing the mayor in a distant third place. It also follows a year of scandal for the mayor culminating in a two-month leave for rehab, and adds to the list of distractions dogging him.
Even before Tuesday's council meeting began, the mayor and his staff were involved in a noisy confrontation with protesters resulting in a call to police.
The demonstrators, part of the "shirtless horde" inspired by the now-famous "shirtless jogger," confronted the mayor at his press conference on Eglinton Avenue West, standing behind him holding signs and shouting "resign! resign!" as he tried to speak to reporters.
After a heated exchange between protest organizer John Furr and the mayor's chief of staff, Dan Jacobs, both parties accused the other of assault, and Mr. Jacobs called Toronto Police. Mr. Furr also alleged that another member of the mayor's team kicked him in the leg.
Video captured by CityNews of the aftermath shows a police officer speaking to Bob Marier, the mayor's sobriety coach and an official volunteer in his office. The officer is heard saying to Mr. Marier "If you want me to help you out, you can't be kicking him," to which Mr. Marier replies "That's all right."
The officer presses on, saying "I saw you kick him. I saw it happen." Mr. Marier is then seen walking away.
Mr. Furr said he decided to let the matter drop on the advice of police, given there were allegations of assault on both sides.
Mr. Marier, a new addition to the mayor's office in the past few weeks, was seen later Tuesday at City Hall, but declined to speak with reporters. Spokespeople for the mayor and the city said that Mr. Marier is not on the city payroll, but has access to the mayor's office as a volunteer. As an official volunteer, he is bound by the same workplace conduct policies as city employees.
Later Tuesday, the mayor's brother and campaign manager, Doug Ford, accused the rival candidates of "dirty" campaigning, claiming that the protesters at the morning event were "plants" – an allegation that the Olivia Chow and John Tory teams both denied.
"Ask the four shirtless protesters who chase us around, who they are, where they're from," the councillor said. He added of the protesters: "There's a fine line when the mayor goes out from freedom of speech to harassment."
Doug Ford also told reporters that a window on his SUV had been smashed the night before, and alleged the incident may have been politically motivated.
"I think the message is pretty clear," the councillor said. "This is going to be the dirtiest campaign Canada's ever seen."
Ms. Chow's spokesman, Jamey Heath, responded, by saying that "Olivia's campaign was in no way involved."
John Tory, meanwhile, called the notion that either he or Ms. Chow might be involved "ridiculous."
With reports from Elizabeth Church and Kaleigh Rogers