Renata Ford, the widow of the late Toronto mayor Rob Ford – whose brother Doug is now Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Premier – will stand as a candidate for the fringe People’s Party of Canada in the fall election.
Leader Maxime Bernier, who founded the party after losing the federal Conservative leadership race to Andrew Scheer, unveiled a slate of 38 Ontario and Greater Toronto Area candidates on Friday. His party, which calls for Canada to accept fewer immigrants and refugees, sits at just 0.7-per-cent support in a recent Nanos poll, and has faced criticism for attracting extremists and fuelling conspiracy theories.
Ms. Ford, labelled as the party’s Toronto-area spokeswoman, will run in Etobicoke-North, which is currently held by Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan in the House of Commons and Doug Ford at Queen’s Park.
Reading prepared remarks in a monotone, she said she had grown dismayed by government deficits and that Mr. Bernier was the only “legitimate alternative.”
“I have worked and served the constituents of Etobicoke North side-by-side with my husband, Rob Ford, for the past 20 years in an informal behind-the-scenes capacity," Ms. Ford said. "After a period of trials and tribulations, I am healthier and I am more ready than ever. The time is right for me now to run to be a member of Parliament.”
Those trials and tribulations include the death of Rob Ford in 2016, after a term as mayor marked by scandal and substance abuse that nonetheless later saw thousands file past his coffin at city hall.
In 2008, Ms. Ford accused her husband, then a city councillor, of assaulting her and uttering a death threat, but the charges were withdrawn after the Crown said it found inconsistencies in her allegations that raised “credibility issues.”
More recently, just days before last June’s provincial election, Ms. Ford launched a lawsuit against Doug Ford alleging he was negligent in managing the family’s business, Deco Labels & Tags, costing the late mayor’s family millions and depriving her and her children of the money left behind to support them. The lawsuit seeks $16.25-million in damages. The Premier has denied the allegations. They have not been tested in court.
According to court filings, Ms. Ford brought in a new lawyer for her case in April. Asked on Friday about the lawsuit, Ms. Ford said it was still before the courts.
Speaking to reporters, she said Mr. Bernier has the “same passion” as her late husband. She wouldn’t say if she told the Premier, a prominent booster of Mr. Scheer, that she was running for a right-wing rival leader. But she suggested the family was still talking: “We’re a family and we stick together when times are tough. But you know we have different opinions.”
When her lawsuit was first revealed last year, the PC campaign released a statement from Mr. Ford’s mother, Diane Ford, who drew attention to her daughter-in-law’s history of substance abuse and urged her to “accept help for the sake of herself and my grandchildren.” Last June, Renata Ford was given a two-year driving ban after an impaired-driving conviction.
Asked about her past substance abuse, Ms. Ford said: "I’m healthier, stronger, I have great support and I think a lot of people go through hard times and they come out.”
After a campaign-style speech in which he called for more vetting for immigrants and denied that humans were the main cause of climate change, Mr. Bernier said it was Ms. Ford who approached his party about running.
The party released a biography of Ms. Ford that says she was “an integral part” of Rob Ford’s success, the “primary architect” of his practice of handing out fridge magnets with his phone number to constituents. The bio also says she was the “primary organizer” for her husband’s annual Ford Fest barbecue, a tradition since taken over by the Premier, who is holding a Ford Fest event at the Markham Fairgrounds on Saturday.
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