“I’m not a criminal,” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said Friday as he appeared on a radio show for a rare lengthy interview with a Canadian journalist who confronted him with questions about his drug use.
Mr. Ford was the last of the city’s main mayoral candidates to appear this week on CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning, hosted by Matt Galloway.
“Don’t call me a criminal Matt, because I’m not a criminal” Mr. Ford said as Mr. Galloway peppered him with questions about his admission that he smoked crack cocaine and about the on-going police investigation into his activities.
An Ontario judge considers Friday whether to unseal additional police information connected to the 10-month-long probe involving the mayor.
The mayor portrayed the allegations as matters that only relate to his personal life, not his job.
“Matt, I will guarantee there’ll never be a scandal at city hall, with me involved in stealing one cent of taxpayers’ money,” he said, adding that he had a proven track record.
“Part of that track record is you lying about smoking crack, you lying about a reporter in your backyard that you needed to apologize for, lying about saying you weren’t going to drink any more and then you were caught again drinking. So based on that, why should anybody trust anything that you say?” Mr. Galloway asked.
“You look at my 14 years of proven track record,” the mayor repeated. “Was I perfect? No. And I am not perfect.”
The mayor said voters are now numbed by the allegations.
“What you’re saying has been said for the last year over and over and over. People that I talk to are blocking it out. If it is, I wouldn’t be in the lead right now. And you know and I know I’m in the lead right now” he said.
“Were you buyings drugs?” Mr. Galloway asked.
Mr. Ford didn’t directly answer the question. He said he didn’t want to address the allegations for legal reasons. “Why are we rehashing this again?”
Mr. Ford said he was co-operating with the police but at the same time acknowledged that he has declined to speak with investigators.
“My legal counsel has advised me not to. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.”
Mr. Galloway said the mayor’s unwillingness to talk to investigators didn’t set a good example, considering that Toronto police often have trouble getting witnesses to co-operate when they investigate gang violence.
Mr. Ford tried to change topics.
“When you want to talk about leadership and credibility, who’s the first one to lead the charge during the flooding?” Mr. Ford asked.
To the mayor using his standard argument that he is not perfect, Mr. Galloway said “it’s not about being perfect, it’s about criminal behaviour.”
“I’m not a criminal,” Mr. Ford said. “And if you are going to make those accusations of me being a criminal there’s not that much sense in moving ahead. Because I haven’t been charged with anything.”
The tone of the interview was also combative as the two discussed Mr. Ford’s record.
In some cases, after Mr. Galloway challenged a claim that the mayor made, Mr. Ford replied with another inaccurate statement.
“We’ve had no labour disruption,” Mr. Ford boasted.
Mr. Galloway noted that municipal library workers did go on strike in 2012.
“I’m sorry, library workers went on strike for two days,” the mayor replied. In fact, the library strike lasted 10 days.
The two also parried over job figures.
“I created 57,000 jobs last year. That’s a fact,” he said, also mentioning the number of cranes used in high-rise construction.
“How many of them are you personally responsible for?” Mr. Galloway asked.
“They weren’t here three years ago,” Mr. Ford said.
When Mr. Galloway asked about the 23 per cent youth unemployment rate in the city, the mayor said the figure was “fictitious.”
“I’m not quite sure where you get these numbers from,” Mr. Ford replied. “How do you define youth? Are you defining 14 years old part-time jobs?”
He said that, from his sampling of youth playing football, “90 per cent of those kids have part-time jobs.”