Toronto looks to take a hard right in mayoral race

Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:47pm EDT
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - Liberal Toronto looks set to deny its recent history with vengeful voters drawn to a penny-pinching, politically incorrect right-winger in a scrappy campaign leading to October's mayoral election.

Rob Ford, a brash, wealthy suburban city councilor who runs his family's label business, has become the solid front-runner in the race to the October 25 election, well ahead of second-place George Smitherman, formerly a heavy-hitting health and energy minister in the Ontario provincial government.

Before the campaign began, political analysts gave Ford no chance of winning, but driving his popularity is a platform that includes slashing the size of government and reining in what he says are councilors' lavish spending habits.

"It's gone completely out of control. People are sick and tired of it and they know that Rob Ford, if I'm fortunate to become mayor, will put an end to the party and the gravy train," Ford told Reuters in a brief interview.

Toronto is Canada's biggest city and its financial capital, home to the country's biggest banks and many of its major companies. In federal elections the city tends to vote Liberal or for the left-leaning New Democrats, while many of the suburbs that ring it often back Conservatives.

Ford is capitalizing on resentment at high taxes, a union-friendly end to an ugly municipal workers' strike last summer and support for his own tight-fistedness. He boasts he has not used his C$53,000 ($51,000) yearly expense budget in a decade of politics.

"People have noticed that Ford doesn't spend a dime personally," said Nelson Wiseman, a politics professor at the University of Toronto.

"Ford represents less spending by council and that's symbolic to people. The budget of the city is C$9 billion, the total expenses of the council are minuscule out of that, but it's the symbolism, that's how it works."   Continued...

<p>Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford is pictured in this undated publicity handout photo. REUTERS/Handout</p>