09/25/2014 12:28 EDT | Updated 11/25/2014 05:59 EST

Candidates point to racist, homophobic comments in campaign

The tone and tenor of the debate ahead of Toronto's municipal election has this week taken on a tone that is nasty, and in a few cases, outright racist.


Key lines from Doug Ford's 1st debate with John Tory, Olivia Chow.

In Tuesday's raucous debate, the first attended by Doug Ford since his last-minute move to enter the mayoralty race, a man was heard shouting "go home, back to China" at candidate Olivia Chow. The man had identified himself as a Ford supporter, a group known collectively identifies itself as Ford Nation.

Doug Ford has said he doesn't condone such comments.

"If they want to talk that way, they aren’t part of this campaign,” he said. “It’s very simple.”

Earlier this week Kristyn Wong-Tam, an openly gay councillor running for re-election in Ward 27, tweeted images of a letter that was sent to her office and said: "I hope you get AIDS and die in public office." The letter, which Wong-Tam described as "vitriolic and hateful," also used racial epithets and included a threat on her life. Wong-Tam's staff filed a report about the letter with the police.

The letter writer signed off with: "I support Ford Nation."

In an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning show Thursday Wong-Tam said she was thankful Doug Ford refused to condone such comments but said he could do more to quell such sentiments from people who claim to be his supporters.

"The Ford Nation brand now denotes a certain type of bigotry," said Wong-Tam, citing videos that surfaced earlier this year showing Mayor Rob Ford speaking in a fake Jamaican patois.

"I realize it's coming from people who are extremists and radicals, but because they claim they are supporters of Ford Nation, I think they've been emboldened by their leader," she said.

Rob Ford dropped out of the mayor's race after he was diagnosed with cancer. He's now running for a council seat in Ward 2.

Wong-Tam said the Fords should set clear rules for their supporters in the form of a code of conduct.

"If you're going to be wearing a Ford Nation T-shirt, then you'd best not be saying certain things because it immediately connects the Ford Nation brand with that type of unacceptable behaviour."

She encouraged Ford and others in the campaign to make a point of identifying supporters who step over the line.

"Otherwise the behaviour becomes normalized and accepted," she said.

"I don’t believe that what we're seeing in these random moments represents Toronto values."