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Brother of Rob Ford running for office, and sounds like Trump

Doug Ford in October 2014, when he a candidate for mayor of Toronto.
Doug Ford in October 2014, when he a candidate for mayor of Toronto. Galit Rodan/Bloomberg News

OTTAWA — Doug Ford is campaigning to become leader of Ontario, Canada's most populous province — and perhaps to help restore the Ford name.

His brother, Rob Ford, the late mayor of Toronto, had a political career marred by drunken escapades and a video of him smoking crack cocaine.

But Doug Ford's rhetoric on the campaign trail has compelled observers to link him to another political name: President Trump.

Ford has positioned himself as the antithesis of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and as a right-of-center businessman who derides elites, whom he has described as ''people who look down on the average, common folk, thinking they're smarter and that they know better to tell us how to live our lives.''

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''They have their glasses of champagne with their pinkies up in the air, looking down like they're better than you are,'' Ford, the surprise winner in a March leadership race for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, recently told a Toronto radio talk show.

With less than two months remaining until the June 7 provincial election, his party is well ahead in opinion polls and widely expected to win.

''Doug is smart in the way Trump is smart,'' said John Filion, who served on Toronto city council with both brothers and is the author of a biography of Rob.

''Doug is very calculating and, like Trump, doesn't have any political ideology. . . . It's this intellectual agility to come up with positions that appeal to a broad group of people even if they make no sense,'' Filion said.

Ford, who shares his brother's populist appeal and combative style but keeps away from alcohol, has promised reduced taxes, lower electric power rates, and an end to the 14-year rule of the Liberal Party, led by an unpopular premier, Kathleen Wynne.

Wynne lashed out at Ford earlier this month, calling him a ''bully'' and likening him to Trump. ''Doug Ford sounds like Donald Trump, and that's because he is like Donald Trump,'' she said. ''He believes in an ugly, vicious brand of politics that traffics in smears and lies. He'll say anything about anyone at any time because he's just like Trump. It's all about him.''

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Ford struck back at his opponent, calling her ''desperate'' during a campaign stop in Cobourg, Ontario, after hearing a tape of Wynne's comment.

Some analysts dismiss the comparisons between Ford and Trump. Pollster Darrell Bricker of Ipsos Public Affairs says both politicians may reject elites but Ford doesn't embrace Trump's strident anti-immigration stance.

In fact, Ford and his brother have always attracted substantial support from Ontario's big immigrant communities, particularly in the Toronto suburbs.

These ethnic Canadians are ''middle-class strivers buying houses with two-car garages,'' Bricker said, who feel the same frustration and anger with what they see as high taxes, too much congestion, and an out-of-touch government as other Ford backers.

Bricker sees the election as ''a referendum on Wynne and she's losing.''

Ipsos's latest poll, published on April 10, shows Ford's Conservatives with 40 percent of decided voters over the left-of-center New Democratic Party with 28 percent and the ruling Liberals in third place with 27 percent.

''[Voters] are taking the biggest hand grenade they can throw and they're pulling the pin,'' Bricker said. ''The day after they don't care what happens.''

Over the past few weeks, Ford's campaign has crisscrossed Ontario, hitting on several hot-button issues. At a rally earlier this month, he took the microphone before 400 people in a suburban sports complex and told supporters, ''The days of gouging taxpayers are done.''

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Ford got some of the biggest rounds of applause when he attacked plans for a carbon tax, which Ontario has agreed to implement in conjunction with Trudeau's government. Just the mention of Trudeau led to jeering.

One man shouted, ''Mr. Dressup,'' a reference to a Canadian children's TV show and Trudeau's much-criticized recent trip to India, where he dressed in traditional Indian garb.

While promising to cut taxes, reduce the provincial debt, and cut waiting times in the provincial health care system, Ford didn't say how he would pay for it all other than by eliminating wasteful spending.

''The party is over with taxpayers' money,'' he said, citing the $6.2 million Canadian dollar salary and bonus given to the chief executive of Hydro One, the province's dominant electric utility, which stands accused of charging high power rates, double what they are in neighboring Quebec.

Ford promised to fire the utility's CEO and board upon taking office, but critics point out that Hydro One has been partly privatized and so the province doesn't have unilateral power to fire anybody.