TORONTO – Toronto’s scandal-plagued mayor held his own against several concerted attacks during Wednesday’s first televised mayoral debate as he seeks to stay in office come October.
Rob Ford, who frequently rolled his eyes, stared at the ceiling and flashed grins at the audience, defended his fiscal record as he shot back at the other four candidates vying to replace him.
“Four years ago, I was elected to stop the gravy train,” Ford said, thumping a familiar drum.
“I have stopped the gravy train.”
Former NDP member of Parliament, Olivia Chow, was quick to shoot him down.
“It’s time for you to go because your gravy train has turned into a train wreck,” Chow said.
“You need to pack up that nonsense you’re talking about.”
Chow was the first candidate to allude directly to but not mention Ford’s well known problems — including smoking crack cocaine in a drunken stupor and spouting obscenities on live television — that have elevated him to TV talk show fodder and made him a recognizable name around the world.
When Ford denied cutting the city’s transit funding, saying he didn’t “flip-flop” like other people, Chow took the opening.
“We’ve had it with the scandals and lack of truth,” she said. “It’s time to go because you’re embarrassing our city.”
Ford did not bite.
Instead, he waited for a stint on the topic of financing to boast about how he had saved money and cut taxes, and to take a shot at Chow’s Achilles heel — her socialist brand.
“Everybody can talk about saving money: I’ve done it,” he said. “We don’t need a left-wing tax-and-spend NDP government.”
When Chow, a former city councillor, talked about her work on the budget committee, Ford shot back: “You sunk the ship.”
Ford, his face red, was frequently content to let the others debate among themselves, but didn’t hesitate to jump in.
Former provincial Progressive Conservative party leader, John Tory, said Ford had “run out of gas” given his inability to get anything through a council that has stripped him of most of his powers because of the scandals.
The businessman accused the mayor of letting taxpayers down and ruining the city’s reputation, to which Ford simply said he didn’t expect that of his opponent.
Mostly, though, it was Chow and Ford who went at each other during the two-hour debate.
“It’s time to take down the circus tent at city hall,” Chow said, saying the mayor had made Toronto “an international embarrassment.”
Voters will choose whether Ford remains in office or will be replaced Oct. 27.