Pubdate: Thu, 15 Oct 2015
Source: StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Copyright: 2015 The StarPhoenix
Author: Tristin Hopper
Page: C7

In this regular feature until Election Day, writers capture a telling 
moment in time from the 2015 campaign.


On Wednesday, ex-Toronto mayor Rob Ford came out with the somewhat 
surprising news that - only days before Election Day - Conservative 
Leader Stephen Harper would be joining him for a Saturday campaign rally.

"We're going to show ' em what a real rally is about," said Ford's 
brother Doug, in a Wednesday interview with CP24.

By all indications, Harper is not a fan of Toronto's most well-known 
political dynasty.

Admitted crack users are typically kept as far as possible from Tory 
campaign events. And the Ford's boisterous good-ol'-boy style clashes 
with the Harper image of sober, responsible leadership.

But Harper's unusual decision reflects a conundrum faced by anybody 
who has ever run a campaign for the Prime Minister's Office: What to 
do when polarizing figures try to endorse you.

It's a situation that faced NDP Leader Tom Mulcair one month ago, 
when a raft of prominent NDP supporters backed the Leap Manifesto, a 
radical plan to overthrow capitalism.

Mulcair said only that the "welcomes debate" when questioned about the plan.

The Liberals, meanwhile, have deftly tamped down an outspoken cadre 
of pro-Trudeau marijuana activists.

When pot crusader Marc Emery was freed from a U.S. prison in 
mid-2014, he vowed to immediately embark on an all-out cross-Canada 
crusade in support of Justin Trudeau.

"The star power we could bring to the campaign alongside Trudeau, 
that's powerful in an election when nothing else seems to get out the 
vote," said Marc's wife Jodie Emery in comments to the National Post 
at the time.

But Liberals put the kibosh on Jodie's race for the Liberal 
nomination in Vancouver East and the couple has been conspicuously 
quiet since the writ dropped.

Earlier this week, during an appearance on the Quebec talk show Tout 
le monde en parle, Justin Trudeau looked decidedly uncomfortable when 
the hosts played "Stoners for Justin," a satirical hip-hop song 
endorsing the Liberal leader.

"We'll have to wait and see if those guys vote next Monday, if they 
remember," said Trudeau, making a quip on the notoriously short 
memories of heavy marijuana users.

Harper has usually been quite prudent about staying well away from 
the polarizing fringes of the conservative movement.

In nine years as prime minister, he's effectively ignored the 
anti-abortion lobby, steered clear of religious gatherings and 
declined interviews with the right wing press.

Despite Republican entreaties from south of the border, Harper has 
consistently turned down offers to speak at the annual Conservative 
Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

And so it was with Rob Ford.

Four years ago, Harper appeared at a Ford barbecue just after the 
Conservatives' 2011 majority win and lauded the Fords for cleaning up 
the city's "left-wing mess."

But as Toronto City Hall was soon beset by the Jacob's Ladder of 
Fordian scandals, the Conservative leader kept a careful distance.

Now, with the promised votes of Ford Nation hanging in the balance, 
Harper has said he won't judge.

Failing electoral success next week, though, the Fords have promised 
to pick up the torch.

"Doug said if it's a minority government, Harper's going to step 
down. He wants to run for leadership," Rob Ford told Bloomberg News in August.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom