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Rob Ford defends robo-call criticizing anti-subway councillor, vows it 'won't be the last'

Mayor Rob Ford speaks to council on Oct.10, 2013. Ford defended his decision to issue robocalls to Scarborough residents the following day, informing them that Councillor Paul Ainslie voted against the subway expansion.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is pledging to put out more robo-calls like one he made Friday criticizing a councillor for voting against his Scarborough subway plan.

Councillors, meanwhile, accused Mr. Ford of using "bullying" tactics and called for him to be dealt with by the city's integrity commissioner.

Last week, Councillor Paul Ainslie unsuccessfully pushed for council to endorse a new light-rail line in Scarborough instead of the subway extension Mr. Ford favours. Mr. Ainslie resigned Friday from Mr. Ford's cabinet-like executive committee. The robo-call went out to residents of Mr. Ainslie's Scarborough ward that night.

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"It was extremely, extremely unfortunate that your councillor, Paul Ainslie, was the only Scarborough councillor who did not listen to his constituents and voted against the Scarborough subway," Mr. Ford said in the call, a recording of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail. "In fact, he led the charge against building subways in Scarborough."

The call appeared to come from Mr. Ford's City Hall office number. In subsequent interviews, Mr. Ainslie said he would complain to the city's integrity commissioner and the CRTC. He could not be reached for comment Sunday. Mr. Ford defended the call.

"I didn't do anything wrong," he said on his Sunday radio show. "What is he going to say to the integrity commissioner? 'Rob Ford informed my constituents how I voted?' I'm missing something here. What is wrong with that?"

Mr. Ford said he paid for the call, at a cost of "a few hundred dollars," out of his own pocket.

"I'll guarantee it won't be the last robo-call, because we're going to tell everybody how their councillor voted," he said.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Ford violated council's code of conduct. The document says members of council must treat one another "without abuse, bullying or intimidation" and that city resources cannot be used for activities "other than the business of the [city.]" Several councillors argued that he did.

"Even though I support [the] Scarborough subway, not appropriate for Mayor to robo-call ward 43," Michelle Berardinetti tweeted at Mr. Ainslie. "Right choice to leave executive – I felt so much better when I quit a year ago now! Independent – no bullying."

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Left-leaning Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam called on Mr. Ford to apologize to Mr. Ainslie and his constituents.

"I don't think we should accept this behaviour of the mayor," Ms. Wong-Tam said in an interview. "I think there's a sense of fairness at play."

David Soknacki, a former councillor and 2014 mayoral hopeful, said he got the call shortly after 8 p.m. Friday. He provided The Globe with a photograph of his call display, which lists the number as 416-397-FORD (3673), the mayor's office.

"Using city resources for political purposes is something the councillors have to be very careful of, particularly as one approaches an election season," he said Sunday.

But Mr. Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, denied that the administration had bullied anyone.

"There's not one councillor who can come and say Rob was very rude to them, talked down to them. It just does not happen. You're Mr. Softy down there," Doug Ford said, later describing his brother's chief of staff as "a teddy bear."

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"He's a wimp," the mayor chimed in. "He's an outright wimp."

He did not directly address the use of his City Hall number to place the call.

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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