Rob and Doug Ford defended themselves on their weekly Sunday radio show and their political colleagues in Toronto reacted to the growing controversy surrounding the brothers’ alleged ties to illegal drugs.
On Saturday, an investigative report in The Globe and Mail revealed allegations that during the 1980s, Etobicoke city councillor Doug Ford trafficked in large amounts of hashish. This followed a press conference a day earlier in which his brother Mayor Rob Ford denied he has a drug addiction problem – an allegation that has dogged him since two media organizations reported viewing a video recording of the mayor smoking from a crack pipe.
The Ford brothers have been denying allegations that Doug was a dealer and Rob has smoked crack cocaine as complete fabrications and say their critics are simply out to discredit them.
On his weekly radio show Sunday, Rob denied the video exists.
When a caller asked directly if it was him in the video, he said: “Number one: There’s no video, so that’s all I can say. You can’t comment on something that doesn’t exist.”
The caller, identified as “Pam,” also asked the mayor if it was him photographed with his arm around Anthony Smith, a drug dealer who was recently shot dead. The photograph has accompanied the reports about the video.
“I take pictures with everyone,” Rob said.
Doug later denied the drug allegations against him.
“I was not a dealer of hashish on the 1980s,” he said, calling the report “gotcha journalism.”
“The story is not accurate whatsoever,” he added. “I don’t believe in uppers, downers or all-arounders.”
Doug later took a call from a listener who identified himself as a former police drug squad supervisor in the city at the time when Doug was alleged to be dealing. He said he’d never heard Doug Ford’s name associated with drug investigations.
Earlier in the program, Rob called the Toronto media “a bunch of maggots.” He added that he’s to run for re-election in 2014. “I’ll be the first one to put my name on the ballot,” he said.
Doug also struck a belligerent tone against the media. “They want to come after us, I’m coming after them.”
The Globe’s Saturday story was based on an 18-month investigation into the Ford Family, and included interviews with 10 people who described in detail that Doug Ford was a go-to dealer for hashish in Etobicoke during the 1980s. The interviewed sources were granted anonymity by The Globe.
Globe and Mail editor-in-chief John Stackhouse stands by the reporting. “Our story has been scrutinized and is accurate. The facts don’t seem to be what’s in question,” he said. “Doug Ford is avoiding the issue at hand, and yet again is trying to distract public attention and scrutiny from important civic questions.”
While the mayor has said the drug allegations against him are “ridiculous” and his brother has said the trafficking allegations are “an outright lie,” neither sibling has given a detailed reply or rebuttal to the specific allegations that have been raised.
This state of affairs is causing some of their fellow city councillors to question the denials.
“I don’t think that councillor Ford is helping himself,” said councillor Josh Matlow. “If the accusations made in The Globe and Mail are true, then I think it would be smart of councillor Ford to simply address them honestly. If he could explain that he may have done something wrong when he was younger but he’s learned from that experience and has grown from that experience.”
But instead, Mr. Matlow argued, Doug has gone on the offensive. And “by simply blaming the so-called ‘elite’ and the media and everyone other than himself, [Doug Ford] certainly doesn’t garner public confidence in his side of the story,” Mr. Matlow said.
Other city councillors, including deputy mayor Doug Holyday, a long-time Ford ally, questioned whether alleged behaviour from three decades ago ought to be considered relevant today.
“I’ve known Doug Ford since about 1994 and I take it this matter that you’re referring to took place prior to that,” Mr. Holyday said. “But in the time I’ve known Doug Ford I’ve not seen an indication of anything of this nature. …Doug Ford doesn’t even drink.”
Councillor Mike del Grande, who earlier this year resigned as budget chief for the Ford administration, said he knew nothing about allegations one way or the other.
But he wondered how much scrutiny politicians ought to face for past behaviour . “If I did something 30 years ago, and I’ve got a clean record and I haven’t done anything 30 years .. is it like you are never redeemed?,” he asked.
Mr. del Grande added that : “If somebody is doing something illegal while they’re in office, etc., then I think it’s a factor, but something that happened 30 years ago, to try to bring it up 30 years later when someone has led, I would say, a reasonable life, is a different matter than somebody who’s continuing in that particular lifestyle and continues to conduct themselves in that particular lifestyle.”
When asked about the Doug Ford controversy at a media event on Sunday, Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne steered clear of the matter. “You know again, I’m not going to wade into personal issues,” she said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done at the city and I’m hoping that the province will able to continue working in partnership with them so those personal issues need to be sorted out.”
First elected as city councillor in 2010, Doug Ford has been lately positioning himself to run as a Conservative MPP against the Wynne government.
His father, Doug Ford Sr., had represented Etobicoke as an MPP during the 1990s Mike Harris Progressive Conservative government.
With reports from Ann Hui and Amber Daugherty