Toronto Mayor Ford opens re-election bid with 'cut the gravy' vow

Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:01pm EDT
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford launched his re-election campaign on Friday, acknowledging the crack-cocaine scandal that has made him a topic of water cooler talk across North America, but also happy to trade on his notoriety.

Ford, whose authority was reduced last year by a city council fed up with his antics, took over a massive convention center in Toronto's west end for the event, hawking bobble-head dolls to raise funds ahead of the election on October 27.

First elected mayor in 2010 on a cost-cutting platform, Ford has become indisputably the most famous leader in the city's history, and continues to poll relatively strongly in spite of a scandal that prompted staffers to desert him and has cost him nearly all of his allies on city council.

"There have been some rocky moments over the past year. I have experienced how none of us go through life without making mistakes," he told a crowd of more than a thousand supporters, before launching into a speech trumpeting his efforts to "cut the gravy" at city hall.

"Four years ago I stood before you with this pledge. I pledged to respect taxpayers. I pledged to stop the gravy train. I pledged to stop elites who would take money out of your pocket and put it in theirs," he said, surrounded on a stage by his wife, two children, siblings and mother.

"I stand before you four years later and say I have kept those promises."

At the front of the room a red fire truck was emblazoned with Ford's oft-repeated claim that he has saved taxpayers C$1 billion ($909.96 million).

Ford first hit international headlines last May when the Toronto Star newspaper and website Gawker both reported the existence of a video of Ford smoking crack cocaine.   Continued...

REFILE - CORRECTING GRAMMAR Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses supporters on the podium during his campaign launch party in Toronto, April 17, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch