Rob Ford was talking about city hall in general – not the owner of the Boardwalk Pub – when he levelled accusations of corruption two years ago, the mayor's lawyer argued Wednesday as he grilled the restaurateur who is suing Mr. Ford for defamation.
The critical question of what Mr. Ford actually told the Toronto Sun editorial board on Aug. 11, 2010, is expected to be cleared up now that a tape of the meeting has emerged.
Lawyers for both sides thought no recording survived, but in a "curveball" for the case, a former Sun editor found a copy and turned it over Tuesday night.
Mr. Ford's lawyer, Gavin Tighe, pointed out in his cross-examination of pub owner George Foulidis, 53, that the article at the heart of his $6-million lawsuit does not quote Mr. Ford as mentioning Mr. Foulidis by name.
A Sun reporter included Mr. Foulidis's name in the story. Mr. Foulidis opted not to sue the newspaper over the article.
"How does he [Mr. Ford] owe you $6-million because the Toronto Sun decided to put your name in the article?" Mr. Tighe asked.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Foulidis nearly broke down in the witness box as he told the court his family suffered emotional hardship after Mr. Ford suggested that corruption marred his café's 20-year, sole-sourced lease extension with the city.
"My wife was distraught. We talked endlessly about it. My daughter was 10 at the time," he said, his voice catching as he struggled to keep from crying. "She asked me if I had done anything wrong."
"And how did that make you feel?" asked Brian Shiller, Mr. Foulidis's lawyer.
"Worse than I feel right now," Mr. Foulidis replied.
Mr. Foulidis also said he had a good reputation before Mr. Ford allegedly went after the deal with his company, Tuggs Inc.
But Mr. Tighe said that Mr. Foulidis and his parents had once been involved in a "fraudulent transaction."
A court found his mother transferred the family home to his father to avoid paying more than $125,000 she owed to an insurance company, a verdict that was upheld on appeal.
Although George Foulidis was not a party to the case, he was described in the judgment as the person who controlled the family's finances.
"Despite your claims that your reputation was sterling prior to any comments by anyone with regards to your dealings at the Boardwalk Pub … you and your family participated in a fraudulent transaction," Mr. Tighe said.
Mr. Ford, who sat quietly at a table Wednesday morning as Mr. Foulidis testified, left at the lunch break.
The mayor is now expected to testify Friday after lawyers for both sides and the judge agreed to accommodate an unnamed scheduling conflict Thursday afternoon.
The high-school football team Mr. Ford coaches is playing in a Metro Bowl qualifying match in Scarborough at 2 p.m. Thursday.