In another sign Toronto’s embattled mayor intends to move forward with his business-as-usual message, Rob Ford is slated to deliver the main address at the city’s Remembrance Day ceremony on Monday.
As is customary, the mayor’s remarks will be at the centre of the ceremony at the Old City Hall cenotaph after two minutes of silence, a flypast by vintage aircraft, reveille and a hymn.
While Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said he supports the mayor’s decision to attend the service, others worry the controversy that surrounds Mr. Ford – his recent admission that he has smoked crack cocaine and a video that surfaced Thursday in which he said he was extremely inebriated – will turn what is a solemn event into a circus.
“It saddens me that we are apprehensive about the mayor attending,” said Councillor Janet Davis, a critic of the mayor. “I guess the people of Toronto will make their views known.”
News of what is to be Mr. Ford’s first official speech since he admitted smoking crack cocaine in a drunken stupor, came on the same day the mayor’s lawyer said he is seriously considering undergoing treatment for substance abuse. “He’s considering options,” Dennis Morris, Mr. Ford’s lawyer and a long-time family friend, told The Globe and Mail on Friday. “And we’ll stay tuned to see what he says in the next few days.”
It is not clear what kind of treatment program Mr. Ford is contemplating, Mr. Morris said.
However, the lawyer cast doubt on in-patient 21- or 28-day programs, saying they’re not a “magic pill.”
“There are different ways that a person could go into recovery for substance abuse and I guess the person has to choose what’s best for them,” he said. “There’s lots of options.”
The mayor’s apparent change of heart came Thursday, when a new video surfaced showing him inebriated and issuing a string of profane threats. The recording is the latest development in a week of damaging revelations and mounting calls from friends and allies for Mr. Ford to get help. Mr. Ford has hinted at problems with alcohol, but says he is not a drug addict.
On Friday, while media crowded outside his office, Mr. Ford was briefed by senior city officials on next week’s council agenda. The meeting was captured on camera and tweeted on his official account – visual confirmation that he was on the job.
As he ventured down to Toronto City Hall’s rotunda to get a flu shot, Mr. Ford told reporters, “I’m feeling good. I’m feeling very, very good.”
Mr. Kelly said he continues to urge Mr. Ford to take a leave, acknowledging that it is affecting city business. “If this was a car, the gear that we’re in is neutral right now,” he said.
As for Remembrance Day, Mr. Kelly said it is important that the man who holds the mayor’s title attends. “When you salute, you salute the office not the man,” he said. “I think it’s important for the mayor of the City of Toronto, for that office, to be present at that time.”
Councillor Paula Fletcher sees it differently. “This might not be the year for the mayor to attend such a solemn event,” she said. “I think many people have been asking him to put the city’s needs ahead of his own. This is one of those occasions.”
Councillor Doug Ford told AM640 Friday that his younger brother should be able to make a fresh start after taking a short break and getting a “little bit of counselling.”
“If Rob goes away on a little vacation, a week or two weeks, comes back, Rob loses 50, 60 pounds, stays on the straight and narrow, because he’s a good, good man … it’d be tough to beat Rob Ford,” his brother said.
Councillor Ford said there are many other politicians across Canada with worse problems with alcohol, saying they drink daily. His brother, he said, doesn’t “go out and get hammered every single night.”
Mr. Morris called Thursday “a very defining day” for the mayor. The video, which was purchased by the Toronto Star, shows Mr. Ford spoiling for a fight while pacing, waving his arms wildly and issuing a string of profane threats against an unidentified man. The mayor apologized and admitted he was “extremely, extremely inebriated.”
“Sometimes people have to reach, I guess they call it their nadir, their low or whatever and I know yesterday was a very, very painful day for the mayor,” Mr. Morris said.
Mr. Morris said the mayor was moved by comments Thursday from his mother and sister on television, as well as those of federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who expressed his sadness over the situation.
The mayor’s mother, Diane, told CP24 that he is not a drug addict or an alcoholic, but needed to deal with his obesity. She said she had told her son to “smarten up.” Her list of “five steps,” laid out at a family meeting at her home last week, were hire a driver, lose weight, get an alcohol detector in his car, change the company he keeps and see a counsellor.
Kaleigh Rogers is a freelance writer. With a report from Tu Thanh Ha.
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