Doug Ford is accusing Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie of giving her city's residents a "real slap in the face" for exploring a potential Ontario Liberal leadership bid at the same time.
"You can't put your butt on both sides of the fence," said the premier, in his ever-colourful vernacular, at a press conference in London, Ont., on Wednesday.
Ford criticized Crombie for focusing on her personal political agenda while the province moves ahead with the "largest change in the history of Mississauga and Peel," referring to the breakup of Peel Region, which would see Mississauga stand alone by 2025.
"I'm going to take care of the people of Mississauga and Bonnie is going to be running around the province not worrying about the people of Mississauga," he said. "In my opinion, it's a real slap in the face to the residents there. I'll always be there, working for the folks there."
The Trillium has reached out to Crombie's team for comment and will update this story with their response.
Crombie has not yet entered the Liberal leadership race. On Tuesday, she announced an exploratory committee made up of 40 Liberals and said she'd confirm her intentions in a matter of weeks.
If she keeps the mayor's chair while she runs for the leadership, it wouldn't be unheard of, and there's no requirement for her to step down.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown recently ran for leader of the federal Conservative party while he remained mayor. And the Ontario Progressive Conservatives announced Tuesday that their candidate in the upcoming Scarborough byelection, Gary Crawford, will keep his seat on Toronto city council throughout the campaign.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Real Estate Association released polling Wednesday that shows Crombie is more popular than Ford in Mississauga.
Crombie is viewed favourably by 48 per cent of Mississauga residents, who said they had a positive or very positive impression of the mayor, while only 15 per cent hold a negative or very negative view, the poll by Abacus Data on behalf of OREA found.
Just 30 per cent said they had a positive or very positive impression of Ford and 39 per cent held a negative or very negative impression.
That said, the poll also found a plurality of voters in Mississauga — 46 per cent — said they'd vote PC if an election were held today, compared to 30 per cent for the Liberals and 16 per cent for the NDP. However, the pollsters identified the party with its interim leader, John Fraser, not Crombie.
However, Ford's message to reporters Wednesday was that he'd welcome her to the race, saying she should: "bring it on."
"I think the best thing to do is she runs against me and we get a new mayor of Mississauga," he concluded. "That's my opinion."