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A Harper government would benefit taxpayers, Rob Ford tells rally

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford leave a campaign rally together in Brampton,Ontario on Friday April 29, 2011.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has thrown his support behind Stephen Harper, an endorsement Conservatives hope bolsters their GTA electoral fortunes on Monday.

Canadian mayors don't frequently pick sides during federal elections.

But Mr. Ford said he couldn't stay neutral because he's worried the Tories' rivals would raise taxes if they took office.

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"People asked 'Why are you getting involved? You're supposed to be non-political,' " he told a crowd of more than 1,000 at a Harper rally in Brampton.

"I said enough is enough."

It's apparent, however, that there are other motivating factors. Mr. Ford wants to expand Toronto's subway system and he is looking to a federal organization that backs public-private investment partnerships to help him.

"We need to partner with the private sector to achieve this," Mr. Ford said.

"During the campaign the other parties have made it clear they are going to kill that agency," he said.

"That is absolutely horrendous - terrible for Toronto and the surrounding areas."

The mayor urged Tories to do whatever they can to help win Mr. Harper a majority. "We need to send more Conservative MPs to Ottawa and help Prime Minister Harper stop the gravy train."

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There are doubts in the Tory camp now as to whether the Conservatives will win enough ridings in Ontario to clinch the 155 seats needed for a majority government.

There are already significant ties between the Conservatives and Mr. Ford. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has publicly supported the Toronto politician.

Throughout the federal campaign, Mr. Ford has pledged to support only his close friend Mr. Flaherty. But he said in an interview that a flood of calls from residents demanding to know his position on the federal race persuaded him to come forth with an endorsement.

"I have followed the campaign closely and asked which party is going to benefit the citizens of the city," the mayor said in a rare one-on-one interview. "After listening to everyone's platform, I believe Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will benefit the taxpayers of this city."

Mr. Ford said he would gladly work with any party, but that the Liberal and NDP platforms gave him little choice.

"I cannot support leaders of parties who are going to add more taxes to the hard-working people of this city," he said of the other parties. "I'll work with anybody. That's politics. Everyone has their opinions … [Mr. Harper]is from Toronto. He went to high school right around the corner from where I live. He's going to help Toronto. He's going to help us build subways, he's going to lower the taxes, he's going to create the jobs, stimulate the economy."

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The two have obvious ideological and personal connections. During last year's municipal race, Mr. Ford ran on a platform of reducing the size and cost of government.

For several weeks, Mr. Ford has had a large lawn sign for Conservative candidate Ted Opitz in front of his Etobicoke home. His former campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis, is known to be aiding several Conservative campaigns in the GTA.

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About the Authors
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

National reporter

Patrick previously worked in the Globe's Winnipeg bureau, covering the Prairies and Nunavut, and at Toronto City Hall. He is a National Magazine Award recipient and author of the book Mountie In Mukluks. More

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