Rob Ford robocalls an act of 'political thuggery,' Paul Ainslie says

Toronto city councillor Paul Ainslie said he intends to file a complaint with the city's integrity commissioner after Mayor Rob Ford "carpet-bombed" his ward's residents with robocalls last week.

Councillor says he intends to file a complaint with the city's integrity commissioner

Robocall row

10 years ago
Duration 3:42
Coun. Paul Ainslie will file a complaint over Mayor Ford’s robocall.

Toronto city councillor Paul Ainslie intends to file a complaint with the city's integrity commissioner after Mayor Rob Ford "carpet-bombed" his ward's residents with robocalls last week.

The Ward 43 representative from Scarborough resigned from the mayor's executive committee on Friday, citing political differences over the direction Ford was taking the city.

The mayor responded later that night by sending robocalls to the residents of Ainslie's riding, claiming the councillor had led the charge against a new subway line being proposed for Scarborough.

On Tuesday, Ainslie called the move a "blatant act of political thuggery" and accused Ford of using his "bully pulpit" to push an early campaign agenda.

"I didn’t as he says, lead a charge against subways in Scarborough,” Ainslie said.  “What I did was lead a charge against a tax hike and no financial clarity.”

Ainslie accused the mayor of using his office number at city hall to make the robocalls and said he thinks Ford "violated the councillor code of conduct."

I think he violated the councillor code of conduct.- Coun. Paul Ainslie

"American-style politics have no place in Toronto city hall, let alone this country, and the mayor has crossed the line."

Ainslie told reporters on Friday that he started to "butt heads" with Ford about eight months ago over budget issues.

The councillor clarified today that Ford said he respected him and hoped they could still be friends after he said he wanted off the executive committee.

‘A few hundred bucks’

The mayor told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that he started working on the robocall message shortly after the council vote last Friday.

"I’m not getting into the cost, it’s a few hundred bucks and my brother came up with the idea," Ford said.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says that it was his brother who came up with the idea of sending out a robocall message. (CBC)

"And I did it just as we finished council. I wrote out a script, bounced it off some people, taped the message and it went out probably five minutes after I did it."

Asked if he had any regrets, Ford said "there’s nothing to regret" about what happened.

"That’s my job is to tell taxpayers how their money is being spent," Ford said.

Earlier Tuesday, the mayor's brother, Coun. Doug Ford, fired back at Ainslie accusing him of "running away from the issue" instead of fessing up to his voting record. 

"We apologize to no one for moving someone off the executive if they're not voting along the same lines," the councillor said in remarks broadcast on 680 News.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told CBC News that Ainslie should have expected some "pushback" over the fact that he did not vote with the mayor on the most recent subway vote.

"He should have expected pushback and in the old days, you used whatever was available to you at the time," Kelly said Tuesday.

"But today, robocalls have gone from the fringes of politics right to the core, because it’s a fast easy way of doing two things — either attacking your enemy or promoting yourself."

Robocalls a 'one-off'

The CBC's Jamie Strashin tweeted that sources said the mayor's office spoke to several councillors today to assure them the robocalls were a "one-off" and not a sign of things to come.

John Mascarin, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in municipal law, said the robocalls to Ward 43 residents appeared to have a very clear message.

“His wording is very interesting — right at the end, he says we are moving forward with a team to support the mandate that Toronto taxpayers gave me,” Mascarin told CBC Radio’s Here and Now in an interview yesterday.

Coun. Paula Fletcher told reporters Tuesday that the mayor's robocall message to residents of Ward 43 was 'a new low' in Toronto politics. (CBC)

“The implicit message…is that Paul Ainslie is not following that course, Paul Ainslie shouldn’t be voted for next election.”

Mascarin said it will be up to the integrity commissioner to decide the validity of Ainslie’s forthcoming complaint.

But he said that if she found the mayor had violated the code of conduct, the potential penalty would be minor.

“The integrity commissioner can only do one of two things,” Mascarin said.

“She can come back and if she finds a contravention, she can recommend a reprimand, which would be anything like a public censure, a request for an apology at council and then she can also order up to 90 days of suspension of pay.”

Meanwhile, other city councillors tweeted their support for Ainslie after his remarks.

Coun. Paula Fletcher said that the mayor’s robocall message was "a new low" in Toronto politics.

"I think it’s simply wrong for the mayor, using his office, to make a phone call like that… and [to] bully somebody in their community for how they voted on something," Fletcher said.