In a pointed dig at Rob Ford's scandal-ridden term, former councillor David Soknacki kicked off his mayoral bid on Monday morning with a pledge on "mayoral transparency and ethics."
After submitting his nomination forms to election officials, Soknacki gave a brief speech in the City Hall rotunda in which he promised to establish "new, higher standards" for campaigns and the mayor's office.
"We need to have level-headed, practical, productive leadership," Soknacki said, reading from a prepared statement. "Toronto needs a mayor who is willing to provide complete attention, presence and accountability."
Soknacki, a fiscal conservative, was joined at his campaign launch by Councillor Paul Ainslie, who worked for six years as Soknacki's executive assistant. The councillor is backing his former boss's bid.
As part of his ethics statement Soknacki said he would publish the names of all his campaign donors in real time, instead of after the election as current regulations dictate. He also pledged to report any contact he has with lobbyists over the course of his campaign, even though current lobbying rules only apply to elected officials, not candidates.
In a clear contrast to Mayor Ford, Soknacki vowed that if he were elected he would publish a daily schedule and report any time he took off work. Ford is one of the few big-city mayors in Canada who does not make public his day-to-day whereabouts.
When asked if his ethics platform was a direct response to Ford's many scandals, Soknacki said: "I think it's a direct response to the expectations that Torontonians have, both in the campaign and in the office of mayor."
He laughed when one reporter asked if he has smoked crack cocaine, as Mayor Ford has famously admitted to doing.
"Zero. No," Soknacki said. "I'm not nearly that interesting."
Soknacki was elected to represent the Scarborough East ward in 1999 and served as budget chief under Mayor David Miller. He left politics in 2006 to return to the spice importing business he founded 28 years ago. He conceded that after spending so much time away from City Hall, he has a lot of work to do to raise his profile before the October 27 vote.
"It's a big challenge. But as well we have ten months to do it," he said. He intends to make several low-profile public appearances over the coming weeks before addressing the Toronto Region Board of Trade at the end of the month.
Councillor Doug Ford, who is running his brother's re-election campaign, wouldn't rule out Soknacki as a serious contender.
"I never underestimate anyone," he said, before going on to criticize Soknacki's record as head of the budget committee.
"What's he going to explain about the mess he put us in when he was a budget chair under David Miller?" Councillor Ford asked.
Soknacki has yet to release a detailed platform but last year supported the cancelled Scarborough LRT over the subway extension council eventually approved. He's expected to make his next policy announcement next week.
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