Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford doesn't feel that the controversial views of some Tory candidates and his own public feud with Toronto's former top cop clash with his steady criticism of the NDP as "radical" and anti-police.
"I'm on a fruit farm here... if you want to compare apples and peaches, it's night and day," Ford told a reporter Wednesday at a campaign event at a family farm near Sarnia.
With polls suggesting a tight race between the PCs and Andrea Horwath's NDP, Ford has gone all-in on painting the orange team as replete with radical activists who are unfit to lead the province, often because of controversial social media posts from candidates.
But a reporter for QP Briefing noted that PC candidates have also raised eyebrows, including: one who defended Holocaust-deniers on the grounds of free speech, one who promoted a website that features content from white supremacists, and one who denied global warming is man-made.
"Are these views mainstream or radical?" the reporter asked the PC leader.
"There's one candidate you're speaking of. He's come out. He's apologized," Ford said.
The PC leader was referring to London West's Andrew Lawton, a former radio host and Rebel Media contributor who said his mental illness was behind past comments that Liberals and New Democrats called homophobic and racist.
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The NDP highlighted this week that, in a 2016 Rebel podcast, Lawton said that while it is "offensive" to claim the Holocaust never happened, a group promoting that idea on a university campus should be permitted to "make that appeal."
Ford said his candidate "had a few struggles in life," but they don't compare to remarks made by NDP candidates. He frequently notes the example of Toronto candidate Tasleem Riaz, who said last week that she was horrified a meme featuring Adolf Hitler appeared on her Facebook page years back.
The other incidents the reporter flagged aren't linked to Lawton, though.
Donna Skelly, running for the PCs in a Hamilton-area riding, was put on the defensive after Press Progress revealed she was photographed at an event holding a hat promoting the alt-right website, "Free Bird Media."
Ottawa-area Tory candidate Goldie Ghamari stated at a debate last week that while she believes climate change is real, she does not believe it is "man-made," according to CBC News. Tories are pledging to scrap Ontario's cap-and-trade program and fight against a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet Ford said he has the best slate of candidates who are ready to form government.
"It's like an NHL all-star compared to a house league team," Ford said.
PCs are also pouncing on two separate controversies involving NDP candidates and police.
The Toronto Sun revealed that Gurratan Singh, the brother of federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh who is running in Brampton East, held a sign stating "Fuck the police" at a 2006 protest. Horwath said Tuesday that while Singh's sign was "despicable," he "turned his life around since his early 20s."
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A column from The Sun Wednesday also highlighted that Jill Andrew, running for the NDP in Toronto, posted to social media in 2016 that Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders deserved a "coon award." Andrew and Saunders are both black.
Ford said at his event that the NDP "say disgusting things about our police."
But a reporter from The Canadian Press asked the PC leader how he could criticize other candidates' views on police when he is not collaborating with the investigation into the alleged 407 Express Toll Route data theft and had a "very ugly" feud with former Toronto police chief Bill Blair.
"Oh my goodness, that's rich. You've never had a bigger supporter of the police than Doug Ford," he said. "I love our police and I've never waivered."
On the 407 data issue, Ford said he took quick action by accepting the resignation of Simmer Sandhu, the former Brampton East PC candidate. Sandhu, who previously worked for the 407 ETR, cited unspecified allegations about his work life and nomination campaign when he quit weeks ago.
Ford said at the time that the party was "looking into" allegations the data may have been used in PC nomination races. Sandhu denies any wrongdoing. Liberals have pushed Ford to call in the provincial police to investigate his party's nomination process across Ontario.
The Tory leader did not respond to the question about his feud with Blair.
Ford, who served as a Toronto city councillor from 2010 to 2014, clashed publicly with Blair at the height of a scandal over an infamous tape of his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, smoking crack cocaine.
In 2014, Ford apologized under legal threat for accusing Blair of leaking information that police were set to subpoena the mayor as "payback" for the police board not extending his contract.
Blair went on to become a Liberal MP and now serves as the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister and the government's point person on marijuana legalization.
In a heated interview with Global News in 2016, Ford said Blair "shouldn't be involved in politics."
Ontario voters head to the polls on June 7.
With files from The Canadian Press