Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is continuing his efforts to move past allegations he was caught on video using crack cocaine, holding four public events in a single day, capped by a speech that sounded like one he might offer on the campaign trail.
Mr. Ford, who has been dogged by the scandal since mid-May and followed by journalists at every turn, kicked off Wednesday at a charity event at a local Tim Hortons. Before the day was over, he met with constituents to discuss property standards and inspected a bridge slated to close next week.
Standing near the Dufferin Street Bridge after the inspection, Mr. Ford read a six-minute speech in which he touted his administration’s fiscal record, and focus on infrastructure, and took swipes at opposing councillors.
When asked if he was in campaign mode, the mayor said he works hard every day and would attend 15 to 20 events running for re-election. But he added that he cannot wait to register for the race. “We’re just starting up the motors and getting things tuned up,” he said.
Mr. Ford has been far more visible in the past week than usual. In addition to Wednesday’s public events, he has held news conferences on flooding, Toronto Community Housing and a rash of staff departures, among other things.
Mr. Ford has said he does not use crack cocaine and is not an addict, but has refused to answer further questions on the drug allegations, repeatedly responding to queries he doesn’t like with: “Anything else?” When asked on Wednesday if he has ever smoked crack cocaine, the mayor said he has already addressed that.
He also did not comment when asked about the latest development from the U.S. website Gawker, which was first to publish the allegations. John Cook, the reporter who claimed to have seen the video, said he believes it is now “gone.”
Two Toronto Star reporters have also claimed to have seen the video.
The circus-like atmosphere around the mayor was on full display when he arrived at the Tim Hortons. The mayor posed for photos with employees, as well as several youths.
Flanked by his executive assistant Thomas Beyer and press secretary Sanjin Petrujkic – “Tommy B” and “my buddy Sunny,” he called them at points – the mayor ordered a coffee and two dozen donuts. He also bought a yellow rose from one of the employees involved in the charity event, after being assured it would not die by the time he got it to his wife.
As the mayor was swarmed by media, one of the employees told him he should get his friends to donate.
“Oh, they’re not my friends,” he said to laughter.
At the mural, Mr. Ford seemed as drawn by the artwork’s vivid colours as he was by the anti-graffiti coating that had been applied.
“This is so cool. Seriously, I’m fascinated by it,” he told building owner Andy Dimitrakakis.
The mayor was then off to Thorncliffe Park to meet with residents before heading to the bridge.
A city official gave him a tour of the structure, which will be closed for approximately 18 months. The mayor could be heard uttering his familiar, exaggerated “Ho-ly!” at a couple of points, although it was difficult to ascertain the context given the noise on the bridge.
The mayor was not the only Ford in the news. His brother, Councillor Doug Ford, did interviews to discuss an e-mail that he said threatened his family. He also took a shot at councillor Jaye Robinson, a member of the mayor’s executive committee who has said the mayor should take a leave. The Etobicoke councillor said in a television interview that a committee meeting was cancelled on Wednesday because Ms. Robinson failed to attend.
The meeting, of the civic appointment committee did take place, although two items were deferred. Reached at home, Ms. Robinson said she notified the mayor’s office, the chair of the committee and the clerk’s office that she was ill. “His actions speak for themselves,” she said when asked about the councillor’s motives.
Rob Ford said the matter of the threat is in the police department’s hands.
With a report from Elizabeth Church