Rob Ford should 'step aside,' Conservative Jason Kenney says
Toronto mayor has embarrassed city and brought dishonour to public office, cabinet minister says
Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney had harsh words for Rob Ford on Tuesday, saying Toronto's mayor has brought dishonour to Canada's largest city and should step aside.
While most federal Conservatives have stayed mum on the subject of Ford, Kenney told reporters after question period on Tuesday that "I think Mr. Ford has brought dishonour to public office and the office of mayor and his city."
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Kenney, who has long been said to have party leadership aspirations, was the first cabinet minister to call on the conservative Toronto mayor to step aside.
"I wish he had taken a leave of absence some time ago to go and deal with his personal problems but not having done that, I personally think he should step aside and stop dragging the City of Toronto through this terrible embarrassment.
"I think there is dignity in public service and elected office and he is doing, regrettably, dishonour to that high office," Kenney said.
The employment and social development minister said because it's a municipal issue, the federal government will leave it to Toronto city council to sort out.
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Despite Ford's mounting troubles, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters on Tuesday he still considers the Toronto mayor a friend.
"Yes, of course he's my friend. You don't have a friend one day and not a friend the next day. What kind of person is that," Flaherty said.
The Conservative MP for Oshawa-Whitby said it is up to Ford to decide what course of action to take.
"He needs to decide for himself what's best for him," Flaherty said.
In an interview with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge on Tuesday, the mayor's brother, city councillor Doug Ford, said the turning point for the mayor came when Flaherty got all choked up during a press conference a little less than two weeks ago.
Flaherty, a longtime friend of the Ford family, had an emotional reaction when reporters asked him whether the Toronto mayor should step aside and seek help after admitting he had smoked crack cocaine.
"He [Rob] called me after he saw Jim [Flaherty] and said, 'I'm changing my life.' This is a man who went out there for us, supported us," Doug Ford said.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay, during a news conference to mark National Child Day in Canada, was pressed by a reporter to explain how a crack-smoking mayor could have the moral authority to tell young people what to do.
"Any politician who is active in public life, that is admitting to drug use, has to do some serious reflection on what message that sends," MacKay responded.
"That includes Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Ford. It's very troubling and unfortunate."
While Conservatives have refused to speak at length about Ford's use of alcohol and drugs, they have not hesitated to attack Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for his stance to legalize marijuana, Official Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair told reporters after question period on Tuesday.
"If the Conservatives want to have any credibility on law and order, they should stand up to what's actually happening in Toronto," Mulcair said.
He said Conservatives ought to stop making excuses for their "Conservative poster boy" and encourage him to seek professional help, and resign as mayor.
"Instead of making excuses for Rob Ford, they should talk to him," Mulcair said, adding that "if he really cares about Toronto as much as he says he does, he should simply step down."
He also said the international media circus around the mayor's tribulations was hurting Toronto.
"If Toronto is continuing to put up a gong show, we might find it very funny on David Letterman, we might find it very funny on on Saturday Night Live, but it's not very funny for Toronto as a financial centre and it's not very funny for our country," Mulcair said.
On Tuesday, Trudeau told the Commons "I will take no lessons in accountability from a man whose fishing buddy is Rob Ford," in response to the prime minister's attempts to deflect his queries on the Senate expenses scandal.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made no public comments about Ford, who was a political ally to Harper's Conservative in the last federal election.
Many of Ford's supporters in Toronto worked for the federal Conservatives during the 2011 federal election campaign.
Ford's strength in the Toronto suburbs has been credited with helping his federal cousins win several hard-fought three-way races in those ridings, as illustrated in the graph below.
In 2011, Harper and Ford became fishing buddies after the prime minister invited the mayor to his residence at Harrington Lake.
A few weeks later, during the 2011 Ontario campaign, Ford introduced Harper at a barbecue as his new "fishing partner."
Harper thanked Ford for endorsing the federal Conservatives days ahead of the federal election.