Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has rejected an apology by the mayor’s brother Doug Ford, after the councillor suggested the chief deliberately leaked information about the mayor as “payback.”
In the latest development in a dramatic feud between the city’s head of police and the mayor’s family, Councillor Ford attempted to put the matter behind him by apologizing at City Hall on Wednesday, two days after Chief Blair served him with a notice of defamation.
But Chief Blair does not consider the matter settled, and the councillor may have to apologize a second time. Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said the wording of the apology – in which Councillor Ford also said there was a “reason” for his comments – was not previously agreed upon by the chief, as requested in the legal action.
“I called the chief. I told him I’m going to make a public apology and I am going to fully retract 100 per cent my comments,” Councillor Ford said in an impromptu address outside his City Hall office.
Just a beat later, however, he added, “There’s always a reason for my comments. I’m going to leave it at that.”
The councillor said his apology “isn’t about money because our lawyers have told me very clearly this is going to be going nowhere,” but instead, it was order to “take the high road” and “bury the hatchet.”
He later said “I don’t know if I’d call it backing down. I just want to move forward.”
The notice of defamation specifically asks that the text of the public apology and retraction be sent first to Chief Blair and his lawyers for approval, Mr. Pugash said – conditions he said the councillor agreed to in a call with Chief Blair on Wednesday morning.
But shortly after the call, and without having sent any text for approval, the councillor appeared before reporters and live television cameras at City Hall to deliver an apology.
Earlier this month, after media reports indicated that police are ready to subpoena Mayor Ford in the extortion case involving his former friend Alessandro Lisi, Councillor Ford suggested that Chief Blair was responsible for leaking the information.
He said the leak was “payback” after the chief’s contract was not renewed for a third term – the same accusation that the chief based his legal action on.
On Wednesday, he opened his apology by saying “In my opinion there was an apparent leak and again, in my opinion there’s only three or four people that knew about this and in saying that I am going to take the high road on this.”
When asked whether the councillor’s actions satisfied the chief’s request, Mr. Pugash said “the answer is no.”
Mr. Pugash added that, because the defamation notice specifies that the apology be agreed-upon before delivery, that the councillor will likely have to publicly apologize again.
When asked whether he’s prepared to apologize again, Councillor Ford said “I’m done with this.”
Wednesday’s back-and-forth is just the latest after nearly a year of escalating attacks from the Ford family against Chief Blair.
In October, after Chief Blair told reporters he was “disappointed” by a video that purportedly shows Mayor Ford smoking crack cocaine, Councillor Ford slammed him as “political” and called for his resignation.
The animosity intensified in the months following, culminating in a video posted to YouTube in January showing the mayor using sexually explicit language to describe the Chief – comments the chief called “deeply offensive.”
“The chief and I have had a good relationship, I think a very good relationship, I told him, especially in the first few years,” the councillor said Wednesday. “It kinda went off the tracks the last year.”