Smitherman calls for anti-Ford voters to rally
George Smitherman said on Monday he was the only person that could stop Rob Ford from becoming Toronto's next mayor, after a poll was released suggesting the Etobicoke city councillor was lengths ahead of his competition for the mayor's seat.
Smitherman, Ford's closest competitor, said he was Toronto's only chance to stop Ford from winning the Oct. 25 election.
He said he could not ask lagging candidates to drop out, but appealed to voters who wanted to make Toronto better to rally behind him.
"If we are motivated by values, I think I am best positioned to bring people together, to stop Mr. Ford, but more importantly to have values in place at city hall that continue to build on Toronto's strengths," Smitherman told reporters.
"It is my obligation to put that value proposition forward and to seek the biggest coalition of voters possible so that we can stop him in his tracks, and stop him before he brings his anger to city hall."
Smitherman was reacting to a Nanos Research poll, conducted for CTV, The Globe and Mail, and CP24 that found Ford had built on his support base and now leads the mayoral race by a wide margin.
Amongst decided voters, 45.6 per cent said they would make Ford the next mayor.
The number is more than twice that of Smitherman, a former provincial cabinet minister, who has support from 21.3 per cent of decided voters.
Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone has secured 16.8 per cent of decided voters, followed by former Liberal insider Rocco Rossi with 9.7 per cent and business leader Sarah Thomson with 6.4 per cent.
Pollster Nik Nanos said Ford's 24-point lead is "not insurmountable, but very significant" to other mayoral candidates. He said he expected campaign messages to shift toward finding an alternative to Ford.
"Now, this campaign, at least for the next few weeks, is realistically going to be about Rob Ford," Nanos told CTV News Channel on Monday. "Does he have what it takes to be the mayor of Toronto? There is going to be a significant new level of intense focus on him. It is going to be interesting to see how he handles this."
On Monday, Ford said he was pleased with the poll results but said there was a long way to go.
"There is only one poll that matters; it is the poll on Oct. 25," he told reporters. "It is very, very simple: We have to put an end to the gravy train. We have to put an end to the party at city hall."
Ford has run a campaign largely focused on eliminating wasteful spending at city hall, a message that has resonated with voters. Since taking a slight lead in the polls in June, Ford has built on his support across the city and among voters from every political affiliation.
On Monday, Smitherman said he didn't believe "anger is a management strategy," suggesting Ford's ire toward city hall would not benefit the city if he is elected mayor.
"Everybody recognizes work needs to be done at city hall to make it work better, to reduce waste, to improve customer service. But we can do that within a set of values we have come to know in Toronto, where we do it together. Or we can do it in Rob Ford's style, which is to divide people up."
Rossi's campaign also forged ahead, despite slipping slightly in the polls. On Monday, Rossi released an advertising campaign designed to improve his visibility in the race.