Torstar News Service Mayor Rob Ford was the sole major candidate to refuse questions from Toronto residents in Metro's recent series.

Somewhere along the way, Rob Ford stopped saying, “My life is an open book” and started saying, “Talk to my lawyer,” but Metro readers still have questions for him.

Metro invited the top five mayoral candidates to our office to answer questions from readers and some of our own. John Tory, Olivia Chow, Karen Stintz and David Soknacki did—and they answered some tough ones.

Coun. Doug Ford declined on the mayor’s behalf, writing, “The Mayor does not speak to anyone owned and operated by the Star. Metro has never once put a positive story out about the Mayor. So I am sure nothing will be loss (sic) by not sitting down with you folks.”

Editor’s note: Metro is owned by Torstar, as is the Toronto Star.

We decided to send Ford readers’ questions anyway, but he didn’t answer.

Some, like Mabel Vasquez-Benac, had questions about policy. Vasquez-Benac emailed us to ask Ford about his long-term plan for building infrastructure needed to support increasing population that comes from new condos.

Others, like Scott Zakaib, had questions about Ford’s scandals. “Can Rob/Doug explain how #RobFord’s public behaviour, lies, & substance abuse don’t affect the citizens & reputation of the city?” he tweeted.

Kuna, who self-identified as a Ford supporter, wrote to us about trying to call Ford to ask questions, but never heard back. Kuna wanted to know what would happen if he were re-elected and stripped of his powers again, and how he could work with other councillors to get things done.

Mike Choptiany wrote an email asking, “Mayor Ford used to often say that his life is an open book. Why has he abandoned this policy?”

The answer, according to Randi Rahamim, a principal at Navigator who specializes in high-stakes communications, is that Ford’s media strategy is to tap into the public feeling that the media is neither fair nor reasonable and to suggest, by contrast, that he is.

“I don’t think it’s the right approach. I think the media is a great way to reach the public in a broader election campaign,” she said. “He’s also distilled his message down to very simple, easy digestible sort of slogans—like the gravy train—and so I think what’s happened is he doesn’t need the media to tell his story anymore.”

However, when the questions are coming from the voting public, he should answer, said Rahamim.

“In theory, it should be his top priority but clearly he’s got a vendetta and is going to the extreme in his approach. The only way his strategy works is if it’s extreme. It doesn’t make any sense that he would avoid questions from the public, his potential voters,” she said.

As for any concerns about answering questions while police are investigating, Ford could answer them in writing, she said.

“My advice to Rob Ford would certainly not be heeded,” she added.

Ford’s strategy is very unusual she said, adding Navigator’s business is built on protecting people’s reputation, whereas Ford appears not to care about his. “We’ll see, coming up in the fall, if that approach works for him.”

For Rahamim, the big story at issue is whether voters can get past the “gravy train” punch-line style campaign, and hear the candidates who’ve done real thinking on the issues. “The question will be, is there the stomach in the general public to actually listen?”

Questions from readers:

In light of the Vaughan fundraiser for Rob Ford’s campaign, I’d like to ask him if it’s right for supporters who may not be eligible to vote in Toronto’s municipal election to receive taxpayer-funded rebates from the city for contributions. As a politician who claims “respect for taxpayers,” why is he not showing leadership and taking a more principled position?

-Cooper Langford, by email

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