Toronto’s embattled mayor tried to talk about the city’s response to a major event – overnight flooding that shut down rush hour traffic on the Don Valley Parkway – but instead faced a barrage of questions about the scandal that has engulfed his administration in the past two weeks.
“I guess we don’t have any questions about the flood this morning,” Rob Ford said on Wednesday afternoon. “Thank you very much.”
Mr. Ford refused to respond to questions related to allegations about crack cocaine use, or reports that a member of his staff tried to have the e-mail and phone records of three former employees destroyed.
Councillor Jaye Robinson, a member of the mayor’s executive committee, said leaving city staff to respond to serious allegations is not good enough. “The bottom line is the mayor needs to address this,” she said. “We just have not seen comprehensive information coming from the mayor’s office.”
Ms. Robinson has been vocal in urging Mr. Ford to provide more details in his response to the allegations involving crack cocaine. “The only way we can put this whole thing behind us is if the mayor himself can speak to this,” she said.
Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters that Mr. Ford’s “personal issues” need to be dealt with so Toronto can get on with important political matters.
“There is confusion around exactly what the issues are, and I know that the mayor is dealing with that. But at the same time, councillors are doing their work. The work of the city is ongoing and, as I heard one councillor say this morning, it’s not business as usual, but business is being done at the city of Toronto. So, I hope that the personal issues are resolved sooner rather than later, and I encourage the city of Toronto to continue to do the work that is confronting it.”
A news report on Wednesday based on unnamed city hall sources alleged that staff in the mayor’s office attempted to have the electronic records of former chief of staff Mark Towhey and Mr. Ford’s two former communications officials erased.
Asked about the newest allegations involving records, a spokesman in the mayor’s office refused comment.
On Thursday the province's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, sent a letter to Mr. Ford reminding him of his responsibilities under municipal law and asking that he "immediately confirm that these records have not, nor will be, destroyed."
Jackie DeSouza, a city spokeswoman, said the city did not receive a formal request from the mayor’s office to destroy staff records and noted that bylaws and policies ensure records are not destroyed.
“City IT staff have reviewed and there was no attempt made to delete any records of staff or former staff in the Mayor’s Office from City servers,” Ms. DeSouza added Thursday.
With respect to Ms. Cavoukian’s letter, Ms. DeSouza said that because it was addressed to the mayor, city staff are not planning to respond.
Mr. Ford fired Mr. Towhey last week after he advised the mayor to seek help for an addiction, a source close to the administration told The Globe and Mail. Earlier this week, Mr. Ford’s press secretary and his deputy resigned. Mr. Ford responded by telling reporters: “It is business as usual.”
Amid the continuing controversy, many councillors stressed that the city continues to function.
Deputy mayor Doug Holyday, who at times has seemed to be the only one of the mayor’s allies willing to stand in front of the cameras and answer questions, was met by reporters as he left an audit committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
“I guess you can see business is going on as usual,” he said. Mr. Holyday showed his frustration, however, when he was once again asked whether he believes a video of the mayor smoking crack cocaine exists. “The fact is that if there is a video, let’s see the damn thing and we can find out what we’re doing here,” he said.