Doug Ford has become noticeably cooler in recent weeks.

Toronto mayoral candidate Doug Ford stands in front of family members, including brother Rob, right, as he addresses the crowd at Ford Fest in September. Doug has had a noticeably different rhetoric when discussing his brother in recent weeks.


Trying to attack John Tory, Doug Ford (open Doug Ford’s policard) repeated a version of the same line on Wednesday and Thursday. Voters, he said, should be “very” wary of any politician who doesn’t give straight answers to questions.

It seemed like a goof: his brother, Mayor Rob Ford (open Rob Ford’s policard), famously ignored many questions and lied in response to many others. But when Doug Ford was asked Thursday if his words can be taken to mean that voters should be very wary of Rob, he responded with none of his familiar brother-backing bombast.

“Rob Ford right now is not running for mayor,” he said calmly. “Like I’ve said many times, I love my brother more than anything, but Rob Ford is not Doug Ford. Doug Ford is running for mayor. I’m going to make sure that I don’t avoid the questions. I’ve been very clear with each and every one of you, giving you all my schedule.”

Doug Ford was his brother’s unconditional defender for four years. He became a last-minute mayoral candidate with his brother’s blessing. In his first speech as a candidate, he positioned himself as the “torch”-carrying inheritor of his cancer-stricken brother’s legacy.

He has indeed adopted most of Rob Ford’s policy platform. He is using his brother’s campaign signs, campaign offices, campaign aides. And he is casually claiming the accomplishments of Rob Ford’s administration as his own — even boasting that he is the only leading candidate with experience “running” a government.

He has simultaneously distanced himself.

The notably cool rhetoric offers more grist for the amateur psychoanalysts who have puzzled over the complicated, fractious sibling relationship that has shaped Toronto’s civic affairs. It is a tough sell, said pollster and conservative strategist Dimitri Pantazopoulos, given that Doug Ford was the “chief enabler” of Rob Ford’s behaviour.

Doug Ford and Olivia Chow

Laura Pedersen/National Post

Doug Ford and Olivia Chow help Ray J, left, and Josh, students at the Firgrove Learning andInnovation Community Centre, with their homework on Monday during a tour organized by the Inner City Union to show the mayoral candidates the conditions of the Jane and Finch area.

Antonius Clarke has lived around Jane and Finch his whole life. He went to Westview Centennial Secondary School, he studied sociology at York, and mounted a failed bid to represent Ward 8 four years ago. His experience: politicians show up during elections, then disappear into the horizon.

So, on Monday, the 29-year-old tried something new, inviting mayoral candidates for a tour of his home turf, an area often associated with poverty, crime and neglect.

Olivia Chow and Doug Ford are shown a mural outside a TCHC building

Laura Pedersen/National Post

Olivia Chow and Doug Ford are shown a mural outside a TCHC building during a tour of the Jane and Finch area in Toronto, Oct. 20, 2014.

The walk through a collection of rundown Toronto Community Housing buildings was organized by the Inner City Union, a local group trying to drum up more civic engagement. Mr. Clarke said the group will host John Tory on another walk later this week, because a scheduling conflict prevented him from attending Monday’s event, held exactly one week before the Oct. 27 election.

Mr. Ford was an energizer bunny as soon as he stepped out of an RV with his face emblazoned on the side. He did a beeline for outstretched hands, as young men approvingly called out “bop, bop, bop.” Suddenly, he was inside New Style Hair Design, crouching between two women with towels around their hair, giving the cameras a thumbs up.

At 8 Dune Grass Way, the two politicians walked past an unravelled emergency fire hose that spilled out onto the floor. They stopped before an exposed set of pipes in the wall. “This is unacceptable,” said Mr. Ford. “We’ve got to do a complete audit of the building.” At 40 Turf Grass Way, it looked like a security camera had repeatedly been spray-painted and cleaned. Another building had a leaky hallway ceiling.

At one point, Mr. Ford disappeared into a unit. “You don’t have to worry about me,” he declared. “I could come here at 1 o’clock in the morning. And as long as you have a Ford Nation shirt, you’re safe.”

Doug Ford greets customers of New Style Hair Design on Jane Street

Laura Pedersen/National Post

Doug Ford greets customers of New Style Hair Design on Jane Street during a tour of the Jane and Finch area in Toronto, Oct. 20, 2014.

The tour included a stop at a mural that honoured 12 local youth who had been killed over the years. Mr. Clarke said the mural hid bullet holes, a contention that was disputed by Barry Rieder, a minister with the Jane Finch Community Ministry.

Ms. Chow, meanwhile, would linger at doorways even as the cameras continued on with Doug Ford. She told one resident about her plans to expand after-school programs and other support for youth. Earlier in the day, she suggested a grading system could improve the condition of privately owned buildings. But at Jane and Finch, as children kept clamouring for Ford selfies in a recreation centre, Ms. Chow found herself edged outside of the frame.

Doug Ford speaks during the Leaside Property Owners' Association mayoral candidate debate

(Dave Abel/Toronto Sun)

Doug Ford speaks during the Leaside Property Owners’ Association mayoral candidate debate at Leaside Memorial Arena in Toronto on Tuesday October 7, 2014.

“At minimum, budgetary veto powers,” Ford said Monday during a community tour in the Jane St.-Finch Ave. area.

Mayor Rob Ford’s brother said if he had it his way, Toronto would explore adopting a strong mayor system.

“I would like to look at the strong-mayor system in the U.S., New York, Chicago, L.A. — see how that works,” he said.

“The province works this way in a majority government,” Ford said. “It’s ultimate power with the province and the feds when they have a majority government. At least you have to give the same powers to whoever the mayor may be, him or her, of the day. If you don’t like them, you fire them in four years.”