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Rob Ford Kicks Off Toronto Mayoral Campaign With Misinformation

Controversial, bombastic Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is running for re-election in 2014 — as promised.

Ford officially registered as a candidate at City Hall Thursday, telling reporters he is "the best mayor the city has ever had."

But Ford, whose relationship with the truth has landed him in hot water in the past, kicked off his campaign with several incorrect statements.

Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star captured at least five examples of Ford potentially fibbing right out of the gates, but it seems the mayor's most dubious assertions involve his council attendance record and the disputed claim that he has saved taxpayers a billion dollars.

Ford told reporters he has the best attendance record on city council, which is untrue.

As Dale points out, Ford's "absenteeism percentage of 17 per cent makes him worse than two-thirds of his colleagues."

Ford also repeated his boast that he has saved taxpayers a billion dollars, a figure the Toronto Star deconstructed and found to be exaggerated by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Columnist Marcus Gee of The Globe and Mail pointed out that a key issue with the billion-dollar figure appears to be Ford's inclusion of what the mayor says are $200 million in savings from canceling the vehicle-registration tax.

Eliminating the so-called "car tax” saved money for Toronto drivers but took funds out of the city treasury, Gee wrote, meaning it was a tax cut and not a budget cut.

When city manager Joe Pennachetti was asked at a late November council meeting to confirm Ford's claim of $1 billion in budget savings, he said they were closer to $800-million as the money for the car registration tax "really is something separate."

The mayor's comments Thursday fly in the face of Coun. Doug Ford's statement that his brother is "the most honest politician in the country when it comes to saving taxpayers money."

In a possible sign of things to come, Ford was challenged on Twitter Thursday about his billion-dollar boast.

But the Toronto mayor is no stranger to accusations of dishonesty.

After Ford admitted in early November to having smoked crack cocaine in a "drunken stupor," the mayor denied he deceived reporters who had been asking him about the incident for months.

"I wasn't lying," he said. "You didn't ask the correct questions. No, I'm not an addict and no I do not do drugs."

Postmedia's William Wolfe-Wylie also highlighted three lies Ford told the CBC's Peter Mansbridge during an interview last year, including a claim that he was elected with the strongest mandate in Canadian history. Ford wasn't even elected with the strongest mandate in Toronto history, Wolfe-Wylie pointed out.

And Ford apologized last month for statements he made on television about Dale that he conceded were inaccurate. The Star reporter had been pursuing legal action after the mayor said Dale had inappropriately tried to take photos of his young children.

"There was absolutely no basis for the statement I made about Mr. Dale taking pictures of children, or for any insinuations I made. I should not have said what I did and I wholly retract my statements and apologize to Mr. Dale without reservation for what I said," Ford said in a statement.

Dale has since dropped the lawsuit.

Ford, who will run on the slogan of "Ford More Years," told the National Post he is "itching" to start the 10-month campaign, aims to run on his record and isn't sweating the crack scandal that made international headlines.

"Let them talk about whatever they want. I'm going to stick to my record. I want to see someone get a union deal like I did, get rid of the taxes like I have," he told reporters.

Coun. Karen Stintz and former councillor David Soknacki have both declared they will run against Ford, while NDP MP Olivia Chow, former Ontario Tory leader John Tory and Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong are also rumoured to be interested.

Toronto voters head to the polls on Oct. 27.

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