|Toronto mayor Rob Ford at City Hall, Tuesday, May 24, 2011. (ERNEST DOROSZUK / QMI AGENCY, file)
TORONTO — Did Mayor Rob Ford give the middle finger to a Toronto artist who gave him the thumbs down?
Ottilie Mason claims she was driving with her six-year-old daughter in the car when they got the very un-mayoral gesture Friday night after they pulled up beside Ford and chided him for chatting on his cellphone while behind the wheel.
The gesture has made it into the political spotlight before — former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau once famously flipped it to protestors — but it isn't clear if Ford actually made the salute.
Mason, who chronicled the incident on Facebook the next day, claims she gave Ford the thumbs down gesture when they were stopped side-by-side after urging the mayor to get off his cellphone around 9 p.m. Friday.
She pointed out the van Ford was driving had his customized ROB FORD licence plates.
In an e-mail to QMI Agency, Mason said she's not seeking publicity and wrote the Facebook posting to her friends only to see it go viral on the Internet.
"To me this is not a big news story. Mr. Ford has a huge job to do and I hope he does it well. I really do," Mason wrote in response to an interview request on Tuesday. "For me, this occurrence was just a brief and personal glimpse of the kind of person we have running this city, who doesn't appear to care about respecting his constituents, or following a law that saves lives."
Talking on your cellphone while driving would violate Ontario's distracted driving traffic laws.
Ford responded to Mason's request to hang up his phone by giving the one-finger salute and kept talking, she said.
She rolled down her window and shouted at Ford again to "get off your cellphone."
The mayor kept his middle finger up and mouthed swear words, Mason said.
Drawing on Ford's respect for taxpayers' mantra, Mason said he disrespected her, a Toronto taxpayer.
"I have wondered whether he would have given me the finger if I was a police officer telling him to get off his cellphone. I don't think so, but it's OK to treat taxpaying voters this way?" she asked. "I can't imagine anyone I know who would not have said something to Mr. Ford about this had they seen him talking on the phone while driving."
The mayor's office has yet to respond to the alleged incident.