About a half-hour before Rob Ford addressed a throng of supporters at a rally to launch his mayoral campaign, the old Trooper classic “Raise a Little Hell” blared over the sound system.
And Ford’s entry into the crowded race to become Toronto’s next mayor might just deliver on the song’s promise.
Speaking to a crowd numbering in the thousands at the Toronto Congress Centre, Ford promised to bring a new level of customer service to Toronto if he is elected.
“We will put people and families first,” Ford said.
“People are fed up with a City Hall that doesn’t answer emails or return telephone calls. I guarantee that when I’m mayor, your voices will be heard, loud and clear.”
Ford officially announced his candidacy Thursday morning on a Toronto radio station. Friday evening marked the first time he spoke directly to his supporters since his announcement.
In addition to improving customer service at city hall, Ford’s campaign is focused on cutting wasteful spending, including a promise to reduce the number of city councillors to 22, down from the current 44.
While Ford’s platform is based heavily on fiscal responsibility, he insists he will not serve the interests of any particular political party.
“I am not a “right wing” candidate. I am the candidate who wants to do what’s right,” he said.
“I’m not a Conservative, Liberal, New Democratic or a Green Party candidate. I am running to be mayor of all the people of Toronto.”
While Ford is well-known in the city for past run-ins with fellow councillors, Frances Nunziatta (Ward 11-York South-Weston offered Ford her backing.
“It’s obvious that (Ford) has a lot—a lot—of friends and supporters,” she said.
“I know that Rob will make a great mayor…that’s what we need for the city because the council is out of control.”
Reached by e-mail, Smitherman, who leads the race in early polls, said it becomes more interesting now that Ford has declared.
“Rob Ford will certainly add some colour and flair to the race, and as an Etobicoke boy myself, I’m looking forward to taking the campaign to Rob Ford’s area and indeed, all across Toronto – to those communities that have been forgotten for too long,” Smitherman said, adding that he has experience working with complex budgets.
Smitherman goes on to say that he anticipates engaging in positive discussion about the future of Toronto, but warns: “The types of antics we’ve seen from some councillors – including Mr. Ford on occasion – certainly don’t contribute to a sense that this city is as focused as it should be on the real, adult conversation we need to have about our future and how to make our city work again.”
While Ford’s style may not have won him many fans on city council over his 10-year political career, his supporters are fervent.
Christine Roth, a lawyer who lives outside Ford’s constituency, came to Etobicoke on this night to support him.
“I’ve known Rob for quite a few years and he has been the kind of guy that it doesn’t matter which area he is (in); he has helped everybody,” she said.
“I have been asking him (to run), it’s so important to run as mayor… I’m glad he’s running.”