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Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford is wrong to say that an audio recording on which he appears to be trying to sell bogus PC Party memberships in Etobicoke should be taken as no more than a last-ditch smear campaign by his opponents.

In fact, regardless of the Ontario Liberal Party’s motivation for making it public on Thursday, the recording raises questions about Mr. Ford’s populist credentials and casts doubt on his claim that he is committed to ending the dirty tricks that undermined many PC nomination races held under ousted party leader Patrick Brown.

It’s hard to believe Mr. Ford is actually concerned about the ongoing allegations of data theft, ballot-stuffing, fake IDs and bogus memberships at PC nomination meetings if he himself took part in dubious activities on behalf of PC candidate Kinga Surma in 2016, long before he became party leader.

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Mr. Ford can be heard on the recording telling people in Etobicoke Centre riding that they can sign up for a PC Party membership without paying the $10 fee, and that someone else will fill out the form for them as long as they “just sign it.”

He now says he has never paid for another person’s membership, which would be a violation of party rules, but he doesn’t deny that his is the voice heard on the audio footage. His sole defences are to argue that it was recorded two years ago, and that the party upheld Ms. Surma’s nomination victory after her opponent appealed it.

But under Mr. Ford’s leadership, the party has overturned other controversial nominations that originally survived the appeal process. He appears to be making an exception to the rules for himself, without providing a valid reason why.

Mr. Ford’s popular appeal lies in his claim that he isn’t like other politicians and doesn’t play their games. The recording strongly suggests otherwise. That inconsistency, along with the controversies surrounding so many PC nominations, may well be part of the reason the party has lost its once-dominant lead in the polls.

If Mr. Ford is who he says he is and believes what he says he believes, he should remove Ms. Surma as the candidate in Etobicoke Centre.

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