Rob Ford is in Ottawa for a meeting of Canada’s big city mayors where the controversial Toronto mayor is pushing for subway funding, and fighting to keep Canada Post from ending home mail delivery.
Ford, who had never before attended conferences of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), is fighting for re-election in the country’s biggest city after a year that saw his personal reputation globally tarnished.
The FCM is considered to be the national voice of municipal governments.
On his way into the Ottawa meeting, Ford told reporters he’s been advocating with federal Conservative politicians to maintain home mail delivery.
“I really believe we’ve got to keep the door-to-door mail,” said Ford. “I get it at my house and I disagree with them trying to get rid of it.”
Ford suggested existing mail delivery routes be kept and new developments get the so-called superboxes.
“I don’t want to lose my delivery of mail to my house, and that is something I will fight for and I will talk to the federal government.”
Ford also praised the work of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, although the federal government has been careful to distance itself from its former Toronto municipal ally after his admissions of crack cocaine use and “drunken stupors.”
The gathering of mayors of Canada’s urban centres is designed to address common issues of infrastructure, housing and the economy.
Ford says he’s taking part in the Big City Mayors’ Caucus because he wants to advocate for funding for his city.
“We have to get this money, that’s what people want,” Ford said in Toronto on Tuesday before departing for the capital.
He said he wanted financial support for new subways and better community housing.
“That’s why I’m going to Ottawa to talk to the other mayors.”
He said he has plans for new transit in the city.
“We are going to build subways in the city,” he said on his way into the meeting at Ottawa City Hall. “I am not in favour of LRTs; I’ve made that quite clear.”
Discussions today are expected to include just how municipalities will vie for a portion of a $14-billion federal infrastructure fund available over the next 10 years. The New Building Canada Fund will be available starting this spring.
How smoothly those discussions will go remains to be seen. Ford has made it clear he thinks Toronto deserves a large portion of available funds.
“I think my position is unique, coming from the largest city.”
Just last month, however, Ford voted against a city council motion which asked the federal government to include funding in its budget for a portion of Toronto housing costs.
When asked about the discrepancy, Ford said he didn’t want to “frustrate our federal colleagues through paperwork.”
“I have my contacts up in Ottawa, they treat us very well,” he said. “I look forward to sitting down with the other big city mayors and try to get funding for a housing backlog.”
The mayoral caucus is part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and typically meets two or three times a year.
The federation says the meeting is a chance for mayors or their representatives to discuss important issues face-to-face before emerging with a common set of priorities they can take to their federal or provincial counterparts.
“When they come together and they speak in one voice, both politicians and the media listen,” the federation said.
Ford’s appearance at the meeting comes after he was stripped of a large portion of his mayoral powers late last year following an admission that he smoked crack cocaine.
The mayor has also drawn criticism over the past months for making profane remarks on live television and being captured on a video going on an incoherent and rambling rant in a Jamaican accent.
New poll on mayoral race
A new Forum Research survey published in the Toronto Star on Wednesday suggests the race for mayor, which is in its very early stages, is a tight one.
It asked people who they would vote for if the election were held today and included NDP MP Olivia Chow in the mix, even though she has not yet declared her intentions.
Chow and Ford are tied at 31 per cent support, with John Tory sitting at 27 per cent, followed by Karen Stintz at six per cent, and David Soknacki with two per cent.
The municipal election will be held on Oct. 27.