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Rob Ford, Toronto Mayor, Almost As Popular Now As He Was In 2010, Poll Suggests

Ford's Popularity Growing, Poll Suggests

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is almost as popular now as he was in the first few months after his landslide victory in the 2010 election, a new poll suggests.

A telephone survey by Forum Research for The Toronto Sun found Ford's approval rating at 49 per cent, up 44 per cent from the end of August. According to the paper, the only time Ford has surpassed the 50 per cent mark was during his first few months in office.

"He's on a roll," Forum president Lorne Bozinoff told The Sun's Don Peat. "He's actually on a roll."

The poll of 1,082 Toronto residents was conducted over the weekend before Ford, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced $660 million in federal funding for the Scarborough subway expansion on Monday.

As such, it's possible the controversial mayor may now be even more popular than the poll suggests.

The appearance of Ford alongside the most prominent conservatives in the land has some believing that the alleged crack video scandal is behind the mayor.

"Pictures say more than words," wrote Sun columnist Warren Kinsella. "The Harper-Ford picture says plenty. Namely, the video is gone, baby, gone."

Toronto Star columnist Tim Harper wrote Wednesday that Harper's willingness to help mayor is proof positive that the prime minister believes in Ford’s re-election chances and aims to lean on the mayor to deliver suburban votes in the next federal election.

"The prime minister and his finance minister, Jim Flaherty, have clearly decided that the scandal-prone, gaffemeister mayor will not have another nuclear misstep between now and voting day in 2014," Harper wrote. "This is not merely Conservatives deciding Ford is safe. This is a full-out plan to embrace Toronto's stumbling mayor."

Ford's time in office has been marked by controversy, gaffes and allegations.

Just last November — long before reports of the now infamous, alleged tape — an Ontario Superior Court judge ordered Ford removed from office for violating Toronto's Conflict of Interest Act. The ruling stemmed from the mayor's participation in a council vote to recommend he repay donations he solicited, using the official city letterhead, for his private football foundation.

In March, The Star published a report alleging Ford was intoxicated and asked to leave the Garrison Ball, an annual gala that celebrates the Canadian Armed Forces.

Sources told the newspaper the mayor has an alcohol problem and Ford ally, Councillor Paul Ainslie, reportedly confirmed the leader was asked to leave the gala.

Ford denied having a problem with alcohol, and that he was asked to leave the event.

Just weeks earlier, former Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson accused Ford of hitting on her and grabbing her "ass" at a party held by the Canadian Jewish Public Affairs Committee.

Ford denied the accusations and said Thomson was crying wolf.

Thomson then went public with accusations that Ford was high on cocaine at the time of the alleged incident, but admitted she had no proof.

Ford again denied the accusation and said on his Newstalk 1010 radio show he wasn't sure Thomson was "playing with a full deck."

Then, in May, The Star and U.S. website Gawker filed bombshell stories alleging Ford was caught on a cellphone video smoking crack cocaine.

Ford denied using the drug and that any such video exists but Gawker and The Star both stand by their stories.

The allegations sparked a media frenzy at city hall and made headlines around the world.

Ford's chief of staff, Mark Towhey, was fired after reportedly telling Ford to seek help and several other key staffers left.

The Star's handling of the Ford story sparked dozens of complaints of irresponsible reporting to the Ontario Press Council.

Michael Cooke, editor-in-chief of the Star, told the Council in September that the newspaper made 14 attempts to reach the mayor the night before the story was published.

Kevin Donovan, one of the main reporters on the case, told the hearing that any doubts he had about the alleged video's authenticity vanished the minute he watched it.

But the allegations and accusations haven't weakened the resolve of the so-called "Ford Nation" who turned out in droves for "Ford Fest" barbecues in Scarborough this summer and Etobicoke last week.

Ford told CityTV's Cynthia Mulligan he can't wait for the municipal election on Oct. 27, 2014, when he will "send a message to these people who ridicule us all the time."

With previous files and files from The Canadian Press

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