Toronto Coun. Doug Ford denies buying votes with $20 bills he gave to constituents

The controversial brother of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been accused of buying votes after he was caught handing out a stack of $20 bills to residents of an Etobicoke public housing building.

CBC News recorded Coun. Doug Ford who, like his brother, has been a lightning rod for controversy throughout the crack cocaine scandal playing out at city hall, handing out a stack of cash to voters Wednesday night.

The revelation has led to accusations of vote buying by the wealthy Fords from at least two city councillors.

"This is how rich people buy votes," tweeted Coun. Joe Mihevc.

The councillor defended his actions on Thursday, telling the Globe and Mail that it is entirely up to him how he chooses to spend his money.

“There’s no difference in going to Tim Hortons, waiting in line and getting gift certificates,” he told the newspaper. “I didn’t have time. I went and bought toys for kids. The parents were standing there, so I gave them $20 to go buy themselves a coffee.”

The Ford family is wealthy, thanks in part of their father's company, Deco Labels and Tags, and a stock of real estate holdings.

Doug Ford claims that he donates his entire city hall salary to charity, while Rob Ford made a name for himself as a councillor by covering office expenses out of his own pocket. Rob Ford told a U.S. radio station earlier in the day that he was very comfortable financially.

As much as free money is likely to galvanize the Ford support base, there are serious concerns raised by the practice of wealthy elected politicians handing out free money. The idea that a position of power can be purchased serious undermines the value of the democratic system.

Doug Ford himself has made accusations against the provincial government for a gas plant scandal that has been painted as vote-buying. This is more straightforward. This is money for votes, without any pretense.

Doug Ford was also accused of impropriety earlier this month by personally fronting $50,000 to upgrade public parks around the city. “It might, might, be seen as buying votes,” Coun. Sarah Doucette told the Toronto Star at the time. “On the other hand, it’s going to a very worthy cause.”

Amid that controversy, Doug Ford stressed to reporters that he wasn't going to run for re-election to city council, in 2014. Yet his aspirations for provincial politics are well known. His brother has even predicted that Doug Ford will be premier someday soon.

The only question is, how many $20 bills will it take to get him there.

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