Ford defends remarks on immigration

Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford defended remarks he made Tuesday about immigration. His opponents said the comments were intolerant.

Toronto's mayoral campaign took a strange turn on Wednesday as leading candidates voiced their outrage over Rob Ford's comments about immigration.

George Smitherman, Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson were all at City Hall condemning Ford over comments he made during a televised debate on Tuesday night.

Ford, who polls indicate is leading the race to replace Mayor David Miller, said he thought the city might not be in a position to take in more immigrants in the next decade.

"Right now we can't even deal with the 2.5 million people in this city," Ford said. "I think it is more important to take care of people now before we start bringing in more people."

Toronto's official plan estimates the city's population will grow by one million over the next ten years - many of those people will be immigrants.

During the debate Ford wondered aloud: "How are we going to welcome another million people in? It is going to be chaotic. We can't even deal with the chaos we have now. I think we have to say enough's enough."

Ford pointed to the long queues for public housing, speculating it could grow to 200,000. 

His opponents jumped on those comments calling them intolerant and a "turning point" in the campaign.

"When issues are complex and complicated, as this one clearly is, he demonstrated last night and again today he demonstrated that he's incapable of dealing with the complexity of the issue," said Rossi.

"How many times are we going to let him show his intolerance?" said Thomson.

For his part, Ford says his opponents are just twisting his words. 

"In a perfect world, what I'm saying is that I would like to deal with the 2.5 million people first.  Obviously, you know, whoever I can.  We can't afford it right now," said Ford.

And in a Wednesday morning news release Ford said, "I have to laugh at these attempts to skew my words. It's nothing but spin. Of course I support immigration." 

"At no point did [Ford] mention shutting down all immigration or not welcoming others to Toronto," the release said.

But his opponents were not convinced.

"This man is a divider.  His values are anti-Toronto values and I think that this was perfectly well reflected in  the discussion that occurred on television last night - and I gather reinforced with comments that he made [Wednesday] morning," said Smitherman.