TORONTO — Some of Ford Nation showed up Saturday night to support Stephen Harper at his final evening rally in Toronto Saturday, but it isn't the crowds that may be the most enduring image of the night for the 2015 Conservative campaign.
That may belong to the family photo of controversial former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, his brother Doug, their wives, some of their children, their mother — and Harper.
The Conservative leader had refused to utter the Fords' name all week when pressed about why his campaign, known for its staunch anti-drug policies would publicly associate with Rob Ford in particular, who became an international sensation in part because of his admission of using cocaine while serving as the city's mayor.
But on Saturday night, he thanked them directly for all they'd done for his campaign when he appeared on stage to cheers, applause and calls for "four more years.''
"Friends, let's begin by thanking all of the constituency associations, the organizers, the volunteers, including the Fords, everybody who helped get this fantastic crowd out tonight,'' Harper said.
The family photo came after and was posted to Twitter by Rob Ford.
Earlier in the week, Harper had met both brothers privately ahead of an event in a part of northwest Toronto rich with voters highly coveted by all three federal parties, but where Harper's event only drew around 150 people.
At that event, when pressed about why more supporters weren't present, Doug Ford had said he could easily rally thousands in support of the prime minister. On Saturday night hundreds of people in one of his biggest rallies of the week came to the Toronto Congress Centre near the airport, but the main room wasn't filled to capacity though the crowd that was there was clearly excited.
Ford gave a rousing introduction to the prime minister, saying Harper was the leader Canada needs.
"Rob came up with this phrase, but nothing that I can remember in a federal election is more important than respect for taxpayers and there's only one party that respects the taxpayer and that's the Conservative party of Canada and there's only one leader that can lead this country to prosperity and that is Stephen Harper.''
Rob was seated a few rows back from the front.
Rally attendee Mike Fitzpatrick, who works as a grave digger, said he supports the Fords and always liked their approach at city hall, and since they support Harper, he decided to come.
He said he will be voting Conservative.
"I don't want to be involved in digging a grave for Canada,'' he said.
Voters like Fitzpatrick are exactly the ones the Conservatives need to have their backs on Monday as they seek to convince people that the policies of Justin Trudeau's Liberals would make for fiscal ruin in Canada.
To illustrate the point Saturday night, Harper brought back a familiar face — Sanjib Bhattacharya, the man who in the early attack ads against Trudeau uttered the now famous line "nice hair though.''
Harper called Bhattacharya to the stage and put him through the now familiar paces of tossing money on the table to represent how much he'd personally lose if Trudeau was elected.
The Fords were the latest political celebrities to show up for Harper on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, several Conservative senators made an appearance at Harper's morning event in Laval, Que..
Many senators have stayed away from the campaign thanks to the ongoing Senate expenses scandal.
Sen. Mike Duffy was dispatched to help raise money for candidates during the 2011 election and help moderate campaign events; expenses he claimed while doing partisan work are part of the current criminal trial against him.
On Sunday, Harper will hold a final rally in the Toronto-area before taking flight for parts west, ending with a rally in British Columbia.
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