TORONTO (AP) — Canada's Conservative prime minister posed for pictures with Toronto's former crack smoking mayor on Saturday and thanked his family for helping organize a campaign event ahead of Monday's election.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has been in power for a near decade, is trailing Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, the son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, in the polls.
Questions have dogged the Harper campaign all week about its association with former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who became an international sensation in 2013 when he acknowledged he had smoked crack cocaine in one of his "drunken stupors."
Doug Ford, his brother, made a speech before Harper spoke at the event in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, where Ford remains popular.
Doug Ford, a former city councilor and failed mayoral candidate, has himself has been the subject of drug allegations. The Globe and Mail newspaper reported in 2013 that he sold hashish for several years in the 1980s, allegations he has denied.
"It's part of the whole desperate show. They are grasping at straws," Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said of the Harper campaign. "They are just trying to hang onto the seats in that area."
Harper has long touted his tough on crime agenda. Wiseman called Harper embracing the Ford an "obvious contradiction."
Rob Ford later tweeted a picture of himself and his family with Harper.
Ford remains a city councilor for a district in Etobicoke.
The Liberals lead the Harper Conservatives by more than 6 percentage points. According to the CTV/Globe and Mail/Nanos Nightly Tracking Poll, the Liberals are at 37 percent, followed by the Conservatives at 30.7 percent. The New Democrats are at 22.6 percent. The margin of error for the survey of 1,200 respondents is 2.8 percentage points.