Toronto Councillor Doug Ford says he is ready to take Ford nation to the next level, vowing to give up his council seat and run for the Progressive Conservatives in Etobicoke North if Premier Kathleen Wynne calls a provincial election this spring.
Mr. Ford, who has long mused about running for the Ontario legislature, proclaimed his intentions with renewed vigour Wednesday, conducting a string of media interviews to get out the news, kicked off by a spot on morning radio.
The Etobicoke councillor, his brother Mayor Rob Ford's staunchest ally, told The Globe and Mail at city hall it is not a coincidence his announcement comes one day after the province's transportation agency unveiled a menu of new fees and taxes that could be used to raise $2-billion annually to fund transit.
"What prompted the announcement is the careless spending down at the province," he said when asked about timing. Given the savings the current administration has found at city hall, Mr. Ford questioned why the province can't come with the $2-billion it needs for transit, a sum that represents roughly 2 per cent of its budget. "Why can't they find 2 per cent to fund subways?" he asked.
Mr. Ford said he is ready to take his brother's cost-cutting agenda to Queen's Park and will give up his seat on city council to do it, challenging the Premier to go to the polls.
"Kathleen Wynne says she is willing to call an election. My answer to that is she is bluffing," he said. "The people of the province have to make a decision. They either want taxes to be increased or they want efficiencies to be had at the province."
Moving to Queen's Park would be a shift for the mayor's older brother who routinely steps in to address the press and defend the mayor when he is embroiled in controversy. The rookie councillor has a habit of speaking his mind, a trait that has sometimes landed him on the front pages unintentionally, such as when he declared he would not recognize Margaret Atwood if she passed him on the street.
The mayor was caught off guard by the news. "Why, is he running?" Rob Ford asked when reporters first approached him. Mayor Ford later said his brother would "make an excellent MPP," and would make their dad, a former member of the provincial legislature under Mike Harris, very proud.
Asked if another Ford would step forward to fill his seat on council, the mayor said anything is possible. "As many Fords as possible," he quipped.
Like his brother, the mayor said he wants a provincial election this spring.
The provincial party has often been in contact with Mr. Ford, so his announcement Wednesday was no surprise, said PC spokesman Alan Sakach.
The Tories already have candidates in place in Etobicoke-Centre and Etobicoke-Lakeshore, but Mr. Ford's home turf, Etobicoke-North, is wide open. The riding has not yet scheduled a nomination meeting, Mr. Sakach said.
"We're very happy with what he's doing at city hall, fighting waste, and we're happy he's running for the nomination," he said. "Somebody of Mr. Ford's stature, we're sure the local riding association would be happy with."
Councillor Adam Vaughan, who usually finds himself on the opposite side from the Ford administration, said Councillor Ford's departure would change the dynamics at city hall.
"I've always believed that Doug actually makes Rob a smarter mayor. I think he brings the word 'yes' to that office. Rob Ford has had a career in this place of saying 'no' to everything and anything, all the time. Doug at least understands as a salesman, I guess, or at least as a person who has run a business, if you want to close a deal at some point you've got to say 'yes.' "
Nick Kouvalis, Rob Ford's former chief of staff and a key strategist behind his bid for mayor, said Councillor Ford would be a welcome addition at Queen's Park. "Doug Ford is a very successful businessman who's always given back to the community and Queen's Park is in desperate need of business leaders who understand where taxpayers are at, who want to give back to the community," he said.
With a report from Adrian Morrow