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Emotional Doug Ford enters mayoral race as ailing Rob drops out

Last Updated Nov 18, 2014 at 6:13 pm EDT

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, left, is flanked by his brother Doug Ford as he appears in front of the media in Toronto on Friday, January 25, 2013, after learning that he has successfully appealed a decision to remove him from office following a conflict of interest hearing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

An emotional Doug Ford says he has entered the mayoral race “with mixed emotions and a very heavy heart” after his ailing brother, Rob Ford, dropped out just before the nomination deadline closed on Friday afternoon to take on another battle.

Doug Ford addressed the situation at a news conference from his mother’s driveway in Etobicoke on Friday night, saying he was “first and foremost” concerned about his brother’s health and his family and that the last few days have been “very hard.”

But he said “(Rob) asked me to make sure that I tell people just how much he really cares, that this is more than a job for Rob. It’s his life’s work and his passion to fight for this city and for each and every one of you.

“He told me he needed me to take the torch while he focuses on getting better.”

“While I want to ease his mind and do everything I can do, I told him that no one no one could replace him.”

After consulting his wife, Doug, who struggled to maintain his composure at times, said he realized that “yes I want to honour Rob’s request.”

The mayor, who remains in hospital with an abdominal tumour, withdrew from the Toronto mayoral race shortly before 1 p.m.

In a statement, he said, “My heart is heavy when I tell you that I’m unable to continue my campaign for re-election as your Mayor.

“Now I could be facing a battle of my lifetime, and I want the people of Toronto to know that I intend to face this challenge head on, and win.”

But he said that while he was unable to commit to the heavy schedule required of a mayoral candidate he would still run for councillor in Ward 2 while focusing on getting better.

Rival reaction

Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow said her thoughts were with the mayor and his family.

“It can’t be an easy time for them today,” she said, recalling how Ford was “very, very supportive” when her late husband Jack Layton died in August 2011 only a month after the then NDP Opposition leader disclosed his cancer was back.

The widow said she wished a speedy recovery for Ford and that he’s out campaigning in Ward 2.

Chow also said she phoned Doug Ford to send a message of support for his brother after he was hospitalized earlier this week but she declined to comment about Doug as a mayoral candidate.

“I do look forward to debating him in the future,” she said, adding that her campaign platform hasn’t changed.

On the other hand, mayoral candidate John Tory was more political.

While he wished the mayor a speedy and healthy recovery and welcomed his brother to the mayoral race, Tory – who has a huge lead in the most recent polls by Forum Research and Nanos Research — urged voters not to vote for another Ford.

“Doug Ford, who’s now a candidate for mayor, has repeatedly put down the members of city council, who were his colleagues, and he has publicly disparaged the premier of this province and the members of cabinet,” he said. “So I don’t’ think Doug Ford offers Toronto more of the same. In fact he may offer Toronto something that is worse.”

On Friday evening, Doug Ford said he wasn’t in full campaign mode and that he needed a few days to spend time with his family before speaking about the race.

Voters head to the polls on Oct. 27.

Click here for CityNews’ special on mayoral candidates and here for the official candidates list.

Ford’s health

On Wednesday, doctors discovered the mayor had a “fair size” abdominal tumour after he went to Humber River Hospital for unbearable abdominal pain, an issue he faced for about three months.

It remains unclear whether the tumour, which was biopsied on Thursday, is cancerous. Results wouldn’t be available for about a week, Ford’s doctor Zane Cohen said after he was transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital for further tests.

Dr. Cohen, an internationally recognized colorectal surgeon, said Ford was resting comfortably and had some pain, for which he was receiving medication. Ford had abdominal surgery in 2009 to remove a tumour on his appendix. His father, Doug Ford Sr., died of colon cancer in 2006.

The mayor has faced a series of drug, alcohol and other scandals over the past 18 months but was polling in second place behind Tory.

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With files from The Canadian Press