Stephen Harper walked around a question from a reporter Thursday asking if he’s comfortable associating his campaign with Rob Ford, given renewed attention on allegations the ex-Toronto mayor abused his wife.
Speaking in Trois-Rivières, Que., the Conservative leader did not refer to Ford by name, saying, “You should put those questions to those individuals.” Revelations made in a new book from Ford’s former chief of staff — and a much-discussed excerpt detailing a troubling argument between Rob Ford and his wife in 2012 — prompted the question.
Ford was charged with assaulting and uttering a death threat to his wife Renata in 2008. But after “inconsistencies” emerged in her allegations, the charges were withdrawn by the Crown.
When asked about Mark Towhey’s new book, the current Toronto city councillor said he doesn’t comment on stories written about him.
‘A lot of people talking’
Justin Trudeau weighed in on the endorsement, saying Ford’s support is something that should make the Conservative leader “embarrassed.”
The Liberal leader made the remark to a crowd of supporters in Montreal, commenting on a rally the Conservative leader held in Etobicoke which drew the attendance of Rob and Doug Ford — who were given a special introductions.
“There's a lot of people talking in the news these days about the hypocrisy of the Fords and their drug problems and Mr. Harper and his positions on that,” Trudeau said, throwing an indirect reference to the Conservative party’s tough-on-crime agenda and staunch opposition to marijuana legalization.
“But that's not really the issue, as serious as it is, that strikes me most. What bothers me most is the misogyny. The Ford brothers should have no place on a national campaign stage, much less hosting a prime minister at an event this weekend,” he said.
Trudeau called the perceived moral and political conflation “completely irresponsible of the prime minister.”
The Ford brothers confirmed Wednesday they would be holding a rally for Harper on Saturday evening. The event, slated to be held at Etobicoke’s Congress Centre, promises to draw supporters from 55 ridings in the Greater Toronto Area, according to The Toronto Sun.
Harper also faced a grilling by reporters on Wednesday about taking support from the family given their history with drugs.
Rob Ford’s name rose to international infamy after he admitted to smoking crack in one of his “drunken stupors” and refused to step down from the Toronto mayor’s office.
Back in November 2013, one of Harper’s top cabinet ministers, Jason Kenney, said he wished Ford chose to take a leave of absence “some time ago” to address substance abuse problems.
“I personally think he should step aside and stop dragging the City of Toronto through this terrible embarrassment,” he said at the time.
“I think there is dignity in public service and elected office and he is doing, regrettably, dishonour to that high office.”
Later, Ford was forced to pull out of his re-election campaign after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
His brother Doug replaced Rob on the ballot, but ultimately lost to John Tory.
With files from The Canadian Press
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