On a day when Rob Ford holed up in his office to return constituent calls, the last and most loyal members of his inner circle threw up their hands at the mayor’s refusal to step aside, leaving him increasingly isolated and powerless.
Less than 24 hours after Mr. Ford’s stunning confession that he had indeed smoked crack cocaine, his strongest supporters on council rallied to encourage him to leave. They were rebuffed.
Councillor Frances Nunziata, a long-time supporter of the mayor and his agenda, visited Mr. Ford in his office and asked him to take a leave of absence. The mayor was not receptive, however. She left frustrated.
“I’m just banging my head against the wall,” she said. “He needs to listen and he’s not listening and I’m very disappointed,” she said, adding that other councillors met with him and gave him the same advice.
“We’re trying to give him sound advice as supporters,” Ms. Nunziata said. She remains hopeful that the mayor might still come around. But so far, he refuses to heed even his closest allies.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly did not appear at Mr. Ford’s side for Tuesday’s news conference, where the mayor announced he was staying in office. Mr. Kelly has twice met with Mr. Ford to ask him to take a break.
Mr. Kelly said he sees his job as being a bridge between the city’s increasingly isolated leader and council. That job is made more difficult, he says, because of what he characterizes as Mr. Ford’s “innate ability to endure.”
“He was an offensive lineman in football,” he said. “I have a sense that his view of life has been shaped by that experience. In football the lineman takes a belting from the other guys. He’s got that inbuilt tenacity to just stay at it.”
Mr. Ford has shown a willingness to go it alone. As a councillor he was often a lone voice opposed to what he saw as frivolous spending but that most others saw as necessary. Even as mayor he was typically the sole dissenter on votes on community development grants. He sounded that same note of defiance on Monday when he referred to possible departures from his executive committee: “Anyone wants to go? Go. I’ll be running the ship even if it’s by myself.”
On Wednesday, the mayor’s policy adviser, Brooks Barnett, resigned, joining a long list of staff that have departed since the crises around the mayor began to escalate roughly six months ago.
It seems the mayor will be left to weather the storm with only his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, by his side. But even Councillor Ford sounded his frustration with the mayor Wednesday. In an interview with the Toronto Sun, Councillor Ford said Tuesday was the worst day of his life. He said the mayor did not warn him beforehand of his intention to come clean and that afterward he told the mayor he no longer knows what to believe from him.
Councillor Frank Di Giorgio, the city’s budget chair, said if the mayor is not ready to listen, no matter how much advice he is given, it won’t have much impact.
“He has no intention of taking time off. I’m not sure what continuing to push him to take time off will accomplish,” he said. “It is just my own gut feeling that when you are dealing with someone who doesn’t recognize he has a problem, it doesn’t matter how hard you push. It’s not going to happen.”
As for the idea that Mr. Ford will remove councillors from his executive if they do not fall into line, Mr. Di Giorgio says that is no longer an option. The ranks of Mr. Ford’s supporters are too thin. “The list of people that you can be replaced with is exhausted,” Mr. Di Giorgio said when asked about the security of his own post.
Although Mr. Ford was replaced as a head table guest at the Chief of Police's annual gala Wednesday, the Mayor's welcoming message was still included in the program. Others in attendance at the fundraiser for victims services included mayoral rival Councillor Karen Stintz, Premier Kathleen Wynne and former OLG head Paul Godfrey.
In Etobicoke, Mr. Ford’s political base, some members of Ford Nation said the mayor’s admission that he smoked crack would not make them turn against him.
John Lopacki, a 64-year-old mover and Terence Davis, a 45-year-old forklift operator, talked about the mayor’s confession with empathy.
“Poor guy,” said Mr. Lopacki, who voted for Mr. Ford in 2010 and said he’d do it again.
“I think if he does have a problem he should get help for it for sure,” Mr. Davis said. “But I think everybody deserves a second chance.”
They said no one else in the city could run things as efficiently as Mr. Ford.
“That scandal is scandalous but everything he said he was going to do … he got rid of [the vehicle registration tax]. I don’t know about the property tax thing. I just think he’s an upstanding guy, you know?” Mr. Davis said.
With reports from Dakshana Bascaramurty and Kathryn Blaze Carlson. Kaleigh Rogers is a freelance writer.