Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne opened the door to intervening in the “truly disturbing” situation involving Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Ms. Wynne said she would consult with other party leaders in view of achieving unanimous support for any move, noting the “extraordinary and unique nature” of the situation.
“If council were to clearly indicate that they lack the ability to function as a result of this matter, the province would respond to a request from council to be provided new tools depending on what that request might be,” Ms. Wynne said.
'I AM TAKING ACCOUNTABILITY'
Ms. Wynne’s comments come after Mr. Ford revealed he is receiving professional help after admitting he may have driven while intoxicated. He also apologized for a vulgar remark.
Flanked by his wife, Renata, Mr. Ford made a formal statement after remarkable morning scrums in which he defiantly vowed to sue former employees who detailed a litany of erratic behaviour to police and made sexually charged comments about a former female staffer.
“I fully realize in the past I have drank alcohol in excess,” he told reporters, reading from a statement. “I wish you to know I’m receiving support from a team of health-care professionals. I am taking accountability and receiving advice from people with expertise. I do not wish to comment on the particulars of this support. I wish you to understand I am accepting responsibility for the challenges I face.
Mr. Ford also apologized for his “graphic remarks,” saying he is under extreme stress.
“For the past six months, I have been under tremendous, tremendous stress. The stress is largely of my own making. I have apologized and I have tried to move forward. This has proven to be almost impossible,” he said. “The revelations yesterday of cocaine, escorts and prostitution has pushed me over the line and I used unforgivable language and again I apologize. These allegations are 100 per cent lies. When you attack my integrity as a father and as a husband, I see red.”
Earlier in the day, Mr. Ford said: “I might have had some drinks and driven. That was absolutely wrong. Outside of that, I have said what I have to say,” Mr. Ford said as he left his office for city council Thursday morning.
FORD PLEDGES LEGAL ACTION
As he arrived at City Hall on Thursday morning wearing a Toronto Argonauts jersey, Mr. Ford launched into a tirade against his former employees, saying he would launch legal action against aides Isaac Ransom, George Christopoulos and Mark Towhey.
“Unfortunately, I have no other choice. I’m the last one to take legal action. I can’t put up with it any more so I’m naming names. Litigation is starting shortly. I’ve had enough,” he said.
According to police documents released Wednesday, former mayoral staffers alleged in police interviews a litany of misbehaviour by their boss, including impaired driving, possible cocaine use, consorting with a suspected professional escort, misusing staff resources, uttering racial slurs and making sexually charged remarks. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Mr. Ford angrily said his friend is not a prostitute. “I’ve never had a prostitute here. I’m very happily married at home. That’s very disturbing against my wife,” he said. The woman’s mother told The Globe she is not an escort.
Mr. Ford also denied allegations that he had wanted to perform oral sex on a former female staffer – using a slang word for women’s genitals – repeating that he was happily married.
Mr. Ford also said he would sue a waiter at Bier Markt who said he believed the mayor was snorting cocaine during a St. Patrick’s Day party in 2012.
“That is outright lies, that is not true,” he said.
City councillors reacted with outrage to Mr. Ford’s remarks, with about 20 turning their backs in protest whenever Mr. Ford spoke in council.
Councillor Janet Davis condemned what she called “distasteful, hateful, misogynist” language used by the mayor, but said she would not ask him to apologize. “I do not want to hear any more from him.”
In response, Mr. Ford stood to defend himself. “No one, but no one is going to accuse me of having escorts and doing lines of cocaine at a bar and former staffers saying I am making sexual advances to my other staffers. I am not going to put up with it. My wife is well aware of it and I am not going to put up with it.”
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, a Ford ally, said unless the mayor announced by the end of the day that he was taking a leave of absence, he would drop his support for him.
“I will say to him very directly, very publicly right now: ‘You need treatment, go now. You need intervention, go now. If you don’t do that by the end of the day, you have lost me.’ “ Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong also said that the mayor is “spiraling out of control,” and needs to resign.
He also called on Ms. Wynne to intervene. City Council does not have power to remove the mayor.
“I hope the province is watching. I hope the premier is watching. I don’t want to set a precedent but if a precedent ever were to be set, it would be today because the mayor of this city embarrassed us all today.”
Before the mayor’s rant, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said Mr. Ford is losing his moral authority to govern the city.
Mr. Kelly reiterated calls for the disgraced mayor to take a leave of absence, saying his moral authority has been undermined by the latest batch of allegations of erratic behaviour.
“I think it’s eroding and it’s eroding to the point where if he doesn’t make a decision soon...,” Mr. Kelly told reporters.
City councillors will consider limiting Mr. Ford’s powers at a special meeting on Friday.
FORD NATION ON SUN TV
Meanwhile, word came Thursday that Mr. Ford and his brother Councillor Doug Ford will be on air again with a new television show debuting next week.
According to a Sun News Network article, the show will be called Ford Nation and will air each Monday at 8 p.m. (ET). The broadcaster says more show details will be revealed in the next few days. The program is expected to pick up where the Fords’ Newstalk1010 radio show left off when cancelled last week.
Actor Charlie Sheen reached out to Mr. Ford Thursday following false reports that he had called on him to resign. “If I can be of any assistance in any capacity in this media cesspool, please accept the noble offer of my steady hand and compassionate heart,” he said via Twitter.
FORD UNDER FIRE
A new poll released Thursday suggests Mr. Ford’s prospects for re-election look bleak, according to a poll for CTV News, CP24 and Newstalk 1010 Radio.
Mr. Ford, admitted to having smoked crack cocaine last week, has apologized but has resisted calls for him to step aside, saying he is not an alcoholic or a drug addict.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who ran into reporters at an unrelated press conference, said he couldn’t comment on the investigation. However, Mr. Blair offered some advice to people getting behind the wheel.
“It is entirely inappropriate for people to drink and drive … We encourage everyone to make the responsible choice and not drink and drive and keep our roads safe.”
Mr. Blair wouldn’t explain why police didn’t stop the mayor when it heard allegations that he drove intoxicated.
“I understand the concerns of all citizens about keeping our roadways safe and we share that concern,” he would only say.
FORD ON FOOTBALL
In the middle of his candid remarks, Mr. Ford strayed from his former employees’ allegations to address the rivalry between the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who face off in the East Division final on Sunday, saying he wanted to call Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina to “tell him that we’re gonna have to spank the little Tiger-Cats.”
When asked if Mr. Bratina would take a call from Mr. Ford, Peggy Chapman, Mr. Bratina’s chief of staff, said, “I don’t know I don’t think so. This is about football it’s not about mayors. If it’s about city issues, perhaps.”
As well, the Toronto Argonauts distanced the team from the mayor in a statement.
“The situation with respect to the Mayor and his leadership is unseemly at best. These latest remarks, while wearing our team’s jersey, are particularly disappointing given our organization’s work in the community to help youth deal with issues of bullying prevention,” the club said via Twitter. “We hope for the benefit of the wonderful citizens of Toronto and this great city that this situation is resolved expeditiously.”
With reports by Marcus Gee and Dakshana Bascaramurty