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Alberta-bound Rob Ford gets a lift from obliging motorist

Mayor Rob Ford stands before the newly-raised PASO and IPC flags in Nathan Phillips Square, marking Pan Am/Parapan Am Day in Toronto, July 10, 2012.

Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

As Toronto debates whether Mayor Rob Ford should have a driver to get around town, one obliging motorist in Edmonton has already filled that role, giving a vacationing Mr. Ford a lift after he asked for directions to City Hall.

Glenn Kubish spotted the Toronto mayor walking along Jasper Avenue as he was driving back to his downtown office early Thursday afternoon. Mr. Kubish, a former journalist who now works for ATB Financial, put his hand out the window to greet Mr. Ford, who had a woman at his side.

"He shook my hand and he said, 'Where is City Hall?' I said, 'Are you kidding? I'll drive you,'" Mr. Kubish said in an interview Thursday. "He hopped in. We had a good talk. It was the highlight of my day."

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The drive was only about five blocks, but the Edmonton native said he used the time to do a bit of bragging about his city and talk football with Mr. Ford, an avid fan and high school football coach.

"He has a high opinion of the Eskimos defensive line," Mr. Kubish said. "He was impressed by the construction cranes in the city. I showed him our new art gallery across from city hall. He got out and gave me his card and said thanks for the hospitality.

Mr. Kubish shared his encounter on Twitter. "Just gave @TOMayorFord a ride to #yeg city hall. Saw him on Jasper. Talked Argos, Esks, Leafs, humidity, construction cranes. Welcome!" he said.

Mr. Kubish declined to comment on the debate over the need for Mr. Ford to hire a driver that erupted this week after the mayor was captured on camera reading papers while driving on the Gardiner Expressway.

"I was happy to give him a lift," he said.

A spokesman for Mr. Ford's office confirmed that he is on vacation in Alberta with his wife.

Councillor Doug Ford said his brother is hoping to fit in some time with the mayors of Edmonton and Calgary while taking in some western football matches – Montreal at Edmonton on Friday and Toronto at Calgary Saturday.

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"He's expanding his horizons," said Councillor Ford, who is also the architect of the mayor's September trade mission to Chicago and his meeting there with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Since coming to office, the mayor has made a point of not attending annual meetings with Canadian mayors and has been an outspoken critic of councillors who spend tax dollars to travel to those events.

The Etobicoke councillor said his brother's Alberta trip is a private visit paid for by the mayor. "It was his idea. He arranged everything."

A spokeswoman for Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel said he is on vacation, but will join Mr. Ford at the Eskimos game Friday night if he gets back to town on time.

"There is no official meeting," Erica Brusselers said. "This is a personal trip for Mayor Ford."

A spokesman for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he also is on vacation and has "no public/official events planned for the near future."

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Thursday's visit to Edmonton city hall was unscheduled, Ms. Brusselers said. Mr. Ford toured the council chamber and visited the mayor's office, she said.

Councillor Ford said he is not surprised Toronto's mayor is turning heads out of town.

"He will be like a rock star," he predicted. "He is larger than life when he walks through the room. The only support he doesn't get is from the media."

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