On the eve of the official start of Doug's Ford's campaign, he has received his first major endorsement – from brother Mayor Rob Ford, who released a statement from hospital crediting Doug with "sharing my vision."
For the first time since doctors diagnosed him with liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer that originates in fatty tissue, Mayor Ford spoke publicly about his diagnosis in an audio statement Thursday, in which he vowed to "beat this terrible disease." But he also used the opportunity to weigh in on the closely watched Toronto mayoral race – which he withdrew from just last week – to urge his own supporters to back his brother.
"Toronto needs Doug Ford as mayor," a hoarse-sounding Mayor Ford said in the audio, released just hours before undergoing his first round of chemotherapy. "There's so much at stake in this election."
Despite the dramatic week that led to Doug Ford's entry into the race last Friday – the stunning announcement that the mayor had been hospitalized, and the news that he had asked his brother to "carry the torch" by running in the October election in his place – his actual campaign has been silent so far.
Doug Ford told reporters outside Mount Sinai Hospital Thursday that he would begin his campaign in earnest on Friday, but provided no details on what he had planned.
The last-minute Ford switch has significantly shifted the dynamic of an already nine-month-long race that has drawn international attention due in large part to the controversial mayor. Despite a series of scandals over the past year, including an admission to having smoked crack cocaine, a month-long stint in rehab and the fact that Toronto Police are still investigating him, the mayor's core group of supporters, known as "Ford Nation," have largely held steady.
A recent Ipsos Reid poll showed that the bulk of Rob Ford's support appears to have shifted to his brother, but still the mayor attempted to curb any potential loss of support to fellow front-runners John Tory or Olivia Chow by crediting Doug Ford with many of his own achievements.
"I was not alone in this," the mayor said. "My brother Doug was by my side, sharing my vision, fighting for the great people of Toronto."
And although Doug Ford has been silent so far on details of his campaign platform, he too suggested that the ideas will be in line with Rob's "respect for taxpayers" message.
"I'm excited about this," Doug Ford said, "and we're going to continue on with saving taxpayers' money."
He told CP24 the campaign was "ready to go," adding, "we already have a solid team from what Rob has built" – including campaign offices in Scarborough and Etobicoke. Earlier this week, Doug Ford launched his official website and social media accounts.
With the mayor's diagnosis announced just the night before, Mr. Tory and Ms. Chow were careful Thursday to avoid directly attacking the Fords – instead turning their attention to one another.
At a speech at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, Mr. Tory called Mayor Ford "a fighter," and instead of attacking his record, spoke against the "politics of division" over the past four years. He also attacked Ms. Chow, accusing her of wanting to start a "long, drawn-out fight" with the upper levels of government in proposing to scrap plans for a Scarborough subway.
In response, Ms. Chow accused Mr. Tory of "making it up" with his own transit plan – which involves the electrification of existing GO tracks – and said he is "hectoring on math." Ms. Chow held her fire on the Fords, however. When asked about Mayor Ford politicking from his hospital bed, she told reporters "I would not be so cynical."
"Of course he wants his brother to take his place," she said. "That's very natural, that's human."