Two days after issuing a blanket apology to the residents of Toronto and vowing he’d turned over a new leaf, Mayor Rob Ford dodged the media at City Hall, refusing to stop for questions as he made his way into work.
Mr. Ford, back this week after a two-month stint in rehab, acted as if it was business as usual Wednesday, grilling staff at executive committee about the costs of Waterfront Toronto’s Sugar Beach revitalization project.
He limited his public remarks to interviews with two broadcasters, telling the CBC and CP24 that he’d battled his well-documented substance abuse since long before he became chief magistrate of Canada’s largest city.
The embattled mayor also addressed for the first time a photograph first published in The Globe and Mail in late April, confirming that he was in fact smoking crack cocaine in the image, and acknowledging that it was that photo that finally pushed him to take a leave of absence.
“That’s why I went to rehab,” he said. “I’ve had a disease for a number of years and I was ruining my life. My health was in jeopardy. My job as mayor was very hard to do.”
The mayor was alternately contrite and defensive as he spoke to the broadcasters, telling them he’d used “every drug that you can think of” and “couldn’t function day-to-day,” before blaming the racist, homophobic and sexist language on the substance use.
“You do things. You say things that just aren’t you,” Mayor Ford said. “I take full responsibility of what I’ve said and what I’ve done.”
He also defended his decision to stay in his job and run for re-election, saying “This is what I love. This is not causing the disease. I’ve had this disease since before I even entered this office.”
When asked whether he’d changed his position on speaking with police – Toronto Police is still conducting an investigation into the mayor – he refused to comment on the investigation, and referred questions to his lawyer.
Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said Wednesday investigators have “spoken to his lawyer a number of times, and our position remains the same. Investigators would like to speak to him.”
But the mayor’s lawyer Dennis Morris said he will continue to advise his client not to speak to police. “Everyone in Canada has the right to remain silent. It’s in our Charter. And he is going to maintain that right.”
In the broadcast interviews, the mayor would not discuss where he obtained his drugs. He also refused to comment on how a Muskoka woman ended up arrested for impaired driving behind the wheel of his car a little over a month ago – while he was still in rehab.
And unlike in the past, where the mayor has reacted to reports of his substance use by vowing to abstain “guaranteed, 100 per cent” only to later recant, Mr. Ford refused to make any new promises Wednesday.
“I did not drink yesterday and I haven’t drank today,” Mr. Ford said. “I’m taking it one day at a time.”
He gave a similar response when asked by CP24 on whether he plans on attending next year’s Pride Parade after skipping the event for years. “I’m going to take one day at a time,” he said.
The mayor’s rival candidates appeared unimpressed. John Tory, who has for the past several months called on the mayor to resign, issued a statement calling Mr. Ford “unfit to govern.”
And in a televised interview, Olivia Chow for the first time called on Mr. Ford to resign. Her spokesman added, however, that the best way to remove him would be to help Ms. Chow defeat him in the October election.
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