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WARMINGTON

Patrick Brown steps into Ford Nation

By Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun

Former Ontario premier Mike Harris and new Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown are welcomed at a reception by Doug Ford at the Ford family home in Etobicoke on May 14, 2015. (Michael Peake/Toronto Sun)

Former Ontario premier Mike Harris and new Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown are welcomed at a reception by Doug Ford at the Ford family home in Etobicoke on May 14, 2015. (Michael Peake/Toronto Sun)

TORONTO - 

You had a potential future premier on stage as well as a former premier.

In the crowd you had a former fastest man in the world, many former political greats and a candidate for Toronto mayor whose political future is also part of much conjecture.

Newly elected Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown talked of turning around a debt-ridden province and bringing back prosperity. Former premier Mike Harris talked of the new leader’s ability to set an even “higher standard of success” as Ontario’s next premier.

And in a light-hearted way, Doug Ford talked of challenging Donovan Bailey to a race.

It was quite a party. And a $300 a ticket, it should be.

Not an easy show to steal but Rob Ford did just that.

From his hospital bed at Mt. Sinai Hospital and just three days following more than 10 hours of major surgery to remove a cancerous tumour, the former Toronto mayor called in to the special gathering in the backyard of his mother’s house.

He sounded tired but the Ward 2 councillor addressed the crowd by thanking them for “all their support that has been given to our family” and “God bless everybody.”

It was a short appearance but the first public words heard from him since the operation.

“He’s one of a kind,” said Harris. “There may be differing views on different things Rob says or does but no one can ever say he doesn’t take care of his constituents and the people of Toronto. In fact no one has ever done it better that I have ever come across.”

He added: “I know all of our thoughts and prayers are with him and we wish him a speedy recovery.”

And Doug Ford said: “Even in the pain he is in, there’s no way Rob wanted to miss out on this.”

Not just to help with the fundraising effort to help pay Doug’s mayoral bid campaign debts but to be part of the action.

“It would not surprise me if he showed up in a taxi,” joked his life-long pal Domenic Sgambelluri. “He loves this stuff.”

Hopefully, there will be more opportunities for him as he moves forward in his recovery.

On the politics side of it the focus was clearly on Brown — an impressive young 36 year old who talked about fixing the problems with “energy costs, transportation corridor and rep tape.”

In the future “we want to make Ontario the easiest place to invest in,” Brown said.

Right now, he said, the hydro costs, transportation grid lock and massive bureaucracy have “created a barrier” that is seeing thousands of jobs leaving.

He’s right about that but it’s interesting that he chose the heart of Ford Nation for one of his first appearances as the new leader — especially when both Rob and Doug supported Christine Elliott for the leadership.

Brown told the crowd its important that “we build a team and focus on the Liberals.” He said he received some advice from Laureen Harper who told him “that both Tony Clement and Stockwell Day ran for leader of the party they turned out to be two of (Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s) very best cabinet ministers.”

Like in hockey when you play against a “tenacious player” you would love to have that player on your team, Brown said.

That said, what is Doug Ford going to do politically? Will he wait three years and run with Brown for a seat at Queen’s Park?

Or will he jump in sooner and perhaps go federally?

“The dream race would be to see Doug run against Bill Blair in Scarborough Southwest,” teased one Ford Nation member from the crowd.

There was much excitement at such a notion. That would be a fun contest for sure.

But Doug was not biting. He did, however, offer one hint.

“We will have more Ford Nation barbecues in the future,” he promised.

Will it be for Doug running in an election? Or for Rob on the comeback trail for mayor in 2018?

Stay tuned. 


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