TORONTO -- Echoes of the drama that once surrounded former Toronto mayor Rob Ford took centre stage on Ontario's campaign trail Tuesday, as Doug Ford accused his late brother's widow of trying to use the looming provincial election to resolve a family financial dispute.

The Progressive Conservative leader is facing a lawsuit from his sister-in-law that alleges he mishandled his brother's estate and destroyed the value of the family business -- claims he repeatedly denied, saying he never abandoned Renata Ford or her two children.

"Our family has always stood behind the kids, always stood behind Renata," Doug Ford told reporters. "We're shocked. That's what it comes down to. We're floored and with two days or three days before an election? I'll let you decide the motive."

Ford said his sister-in-law's lawyers told him to "pay up" or they would go public with the allegations.

"That's just wrong, to put a gun to someone's head to say pay up," he said.

Renata Ford's lawyers, Don Jack and Martin Henderson of the law firm Aird and Berlis, said neither they nor their client would be commenting on the case.

"Martin and I will be saying what we have to say in court, and we shall be dealing with Mr. Ford there," Jack said in an email.

The family feud brought back memories of the personal scandals that went under the national spotlight when Ford's infamous brother had been mayor. While he was in office, Rob Ford admitted using crack cocaine, made lewd comments -- some involving his wife -- and was a political spectacle.

Doug Ford, a former Toronto city councillor who was elected Tory leader two months before the campaign began, largely became known to the public as his brother's defender. He has not, however, had to deal with the same level of personal issues in the public eye.

Ryerson University political science professor Myer Siemiatycki said the lawsuit does nothing to help Ford close the deal with voters in a tight election race. If anything, the controversy strikes at some of the core claims Ford uses to appeal to voters -- that he's a savvy businessman and champion of the "little guy," Siemiatycki said.

"All of that falls apart if there's any truth in these allegations," he said. "I think this does damage and hurts Mr. Ford."

Siemiatycki said the lawsuit is also a reminder for voters of the controversial mayoral term of Ford's brother and the drama that went with it almost daily.

"During Rob Ford's mayoralty, a lot of oxygen got consumed by the comings and goings and foibles of the family," he said. "There may be some people who wonder if this is a reminder, you elect one Ford and you get the whole clan. Do we want a replay?"

Renata Ford's statement of claim alleges that after the death of her father-in-law, the responsibility for the management and direction of the family business, Deco Companies, was assumed by Doug Ford and his other brother, Randy Ford. The suit alleges the brothers have since destroyed the value of the business.

It further alleges the siblings arranged for and received significant compensation from Deco, including extravagant salaries, bonuses, travel and car allowances and other benefits, which were paid regardless of the financial performance of the business.

The statement of claim alleges that Doug Ford knowingly and deliberately put Renata Ford and her children in a "highly stressful and unfair financial position" after her husband's death in 2016.

Ford declined to answer questions about releasing the financial statements for the family label business to counter the lawsuit's claims.

"We have an incredible company for 55 years," Ford said. "I'm proud of it and again those claims are false and without merit and it'll be very clear when we prove that in court. But again this isn't about Deco."

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the allegations about Ford's handling of Deco Companies raise broader questions.

"People wonder whether this is the kind of leader, the kind of premier, that will look after you and your families," Horwath said. "If these allegations are accurate, this is a person who is not treating this widow of his brother and her children in a very positive way."

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne called the lawsuit "sad" because it involves Rob Ford's two young children. She said it's just a hint of what's to come if Doug Ford and the Tories form a majority government. She urged him to clarify the details around his business operations to voters.

"He needs to be open about the situation with his business because if this is the credential that he is running on, that he's a businessman and he knows how to run a business, and somehow that qualifies him to be the premier of Ontario, and if that's under question ... he'd better be clear about the business."

University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman said if Ford is elected premier he expects further personal matters to make news.

"Will we have scandals? Well, there will always be things that happen with government," he said. "But, I'll be surprised if we don't encounter more material about Ford's business and family life ... in the future. I think that's fairly certain."

-- with files from Colin Perkel.