Councillor Josh Matlow

National Post: Wrong number, Ford agrees: Toronto Mayor tells potential running mates to call personal line

March 28, 2012


Mayor Rob Ford is not backing down from a plan to run a slate to sink his opponents in the next election, but he has retracted a public plea for interested candidates to call his City Hall office.


Mr. Ford issued a statement Tuesday evening in response to a complaint by Councillor Josh Matlow, who said using city resources for campaign purposes breaks the code of conduct.


“As many of you know, one of my greatest passions is promoting and encouraging people to become involved with local government,” the Mayor said in the statement, which made no more mention of a slate. “It was my intent to provide my direct personal line.”


Councillor Matlow, who had earlier in the day denounced turning the Mayor’s office a “perpetual campaign hotline,” said he received a call from Mr. Ford.


“He unreservedly apologized to me. I found him to be very gracious and I consider the matter closed,” said Mr. Matlow (St. Paul’s). “It’s important that while there may be differences of opinion, we need to find common cause and work for Toronto.”


The comments in question were made during the weekly Newstalk 1010 radio show the Mayor hosts with Councillor Doug Ford on Sunday. “I’m only one person,” Mr. Ford lamented, before reciting his City Hall phone number for listeners who might want to run for office. “We need to run a slate next time. We have to get rid of the other 24 councillors,” he said, referring to the group that quashed his subway plans in favour of light rail transit


He talked about meeting “great candidates” over the past couple of weeks, including Ken Chan, who came second to Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam in Toronto Centre-Rosedale, and Jon Burnside, who lost to Councillor John Parker in Don Valley West.


The Mayor’s public appeal for interested candidates came as no surprise to some councillors, who say they have already been warned about a Ford nation campaign to unseat them in 2014. Indeed, while councillors on both sides of the spectrum talk about consensus and moving on from the transit vote, the Mayor talks about a “with us or against us” approach.


“I don’t think it’s ever going to be a quilting bee around here,” said Councillor Parker, typically a Ford ally who opposed the Mayor on his subway plan. “Right now I’m not his favourite guy,” said Mr. Parker, who seemed to take the implicit political threat in stride.


“I think that’s the Mayor’s passion showing. Whether that is a plan of action that he intends to carry through is another matter. He is a guy that speaks from the heart and I believe it was his heart directing his comments in that respect. That’s nothing new for our friend Rob,” said Mr. Parker.


Kristyn Wong-Tam was not surprised by the Mayor’s comments. She says she has been hearing for months from the Mayor’s office that Mr. Chan wanted to join a slate against her. (Mr. Chan says if he runs he won’t be joining a slate.)


“I don’t know if it’s just me, but I actually just shrug most of this off with a bit of a laugh because it almost seems sandbox behaviour,” said Ms. Wong-Tam.


Councillor James Pasternak, who says he was warned he would have a “rough time in 2014” if he voted to reverse $19-million worth of cuts in the last budget, calls such tactics “highly inappropriate.”


Councillor Doug Ford dismissed Mr. Matlow’s complaint as bitterness over a lost radio show.


“Josh Matlow is ticked off because we took his radio station,” he said, which Mr. Matlow denies. “He doesn’t say hello to me, he doesn’t say goodbye to me, he doesn’t acknowledge us, over what? we took a radio station spot? That’s the reason.”


And while talk of a slate will not distract the administration from customer service and the city’s finances, Councillor Ford said there is nothing extraordinary about the Mayor’s public appeal. “All the councillors are getting out there, lobbying for the next election. It’s part of politics.”


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