11/19/2013 03:24 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST

Harper Might Still Need Ford Nation In The 2015 Federal Election

OTTAWA — Rob Ford has been making international headlines for weeks, soaring into the celebrity stratosphere with surreal antics that have transfixed the globe.

Canada's prime minister, meantime, appears to be among the few living souls with no opinion on the Toronto mayor's spectacular fall from grace.

It's left Stephen Harper and the Conservatives vulnerable to ridicule in the House of Commons; Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he'll take no lessons in accountability from "Rob Ford's fishing buddy."

Harper's office finally weighed in on Ford this week in a statement that called the mayor's behavior "troubling" while taking a swipe at Trudeau for his admission that he'd smoked pot while a sitting MP.

The PMO's statement on Ford appeared designed to avoid angering so-called Ford Nation, that fierce battalion of Ford supporters in the outlying regions of Toronto who still back the mayor.

They're a formidable force whose allegiance to their leader keeps him perched in a higher spot in public opinion polls than where Harper is currently languishing, even in the face of Ford's ongoing woes.

A slew of Ford supporters worked for the federal Conservatives during the 2011 federal election campaign.

The mayor's muscle in the Toronto suburbs was a boon to his federal colleagues during that election, helping them win several hard-fought races in the city's outlying ridings.

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