Toronto’s mayor says he is sorry for past bad behaviour – owning up to being drunk in public on two occasions – but stopped short of addressing his ties to an alleged drug dealer or explaining what he was doing in an infamous video he acknowledged for the first time exists.
Rob Ford defied calls for his resignation Sunday, vowing to stay in office, and used the weekly radio show he hosts with his brother to make an at times emotional plea for forgiveness, saying he takes “full responsibility” for his actions.
“Friends, I am the first one to admit I am not perfect,” Mr. Ford said. “I made mistakes, and all I can do right now is apologize.”
He made clear he intends to remain in office. “I love the work I do and I’m going to keep doing it. I want to keep working for the people of this city. And there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
The mayor’s statement comes amid calls from political friends and foes for him to step aside. On Friday, the Toronto Region Board of Trade added its voice, asking the mayor to take a leave for the good of the city. Mr. Ford’s insistence on staying sets the stage for more turmoil as additional details about a police drug probe that mentions his name hundreds of times could become public, and politicians jockey for advantage in the lead-up to next year’s municipal election.
“These personal issues will continue to overshadow the business of the city and it looks like there is no end in sight,” predicted Councillor Jaye Robinson, who was fired from Mr. Ford’s executive committee earlier this year after saying he needed to take a personal leave. “It is going to continue to ramp up. It is going to continue to escalate because it is not going away.”
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who met with Mr. Ford Saturday to spell out the “serious concerns” of his council allies, described Mr. Ford’s remarks as “a good start.”
“I’m hoping that at City Hall it will be business as usual and in his personal life it will be a dramatic change for the better,” he said.
For the first time, Mr. Ford acknowledged there is a video, the existence of which was confirmed by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair last week. He asked the chief to release the video so that all can see it and judge for themselves. During a question from a caller, the mayor was asked what he was consuming that night. “I can’t comment on a video I haven’t seen,” was the mayor’s response.
Mr. Ford also did not address his relationship with alleged drug dealer Alessandro Lisi, a man whom Mr. Ford has described as a friend. Mr. Lisi was charged last week with extortion related to his efforts to retrieve the video, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
The mayor, however, did discuss two incidents where he was drunk in public. He said his behaviour at the popular Taste of the Danforth street festival this summer was “pure stupidity.”
“I shouldn’t have got hammered down at the Danforth,” he said. “If you are going to have a couple drinks, you stay at home. You don’t make a public spectacle of yourself.”
Mr. Ford also made reference to his behaviour on St. Patrick’s Day of last year. Mr. Ford returned to City Hall in the wee hours of the morning, where security observed he had trouble walking, was swearing at staff and had a half-empty bottle of brandy, according to a report.
“It got a little out of control,” Mr. Ford said of that night. “I can’t change the past. I can assure people, hopefully it won’t happen again. I can make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The mayor said he will “slow down,” on his drinking. His brother Councillor Doug Ford chimed in to suggest it would be best if the mayor only drank in his basement. Mr. Ford also promised to hire a driver and try to lose weight.
During a later interview with another Toronto radio station, Mr. Ford was asked specifically about the drug allegations. “I’m not a crack addict,” he responded. “I’m not an addict of any type of drug, even alcohol. But do I like to have a couple of drinks? Absolutely I do. I just have to curb it.”
One of the most poignant moments in the mayor’s program came when an 81-year-old woman who described herself as a “great supporter” of Mr. Ford’s asked him to take a medical leave for himself and his family. “The city will survive,” she said. “And I want Doug to quit being your enabler, telling you to go down to the cellar for your pops. That isn’t helpful for you in the situation you are in now.”
Mr. Ford thanked the caller, and then turned to his brother, saying, “you do not enable me.”
During his mea culpa, Mr. Ford pleaded with reporters not to come to his house, saying that they frightened his children. Instead, he promised he would make himself available “anywhere” to answer questions. That change of tone did not last long. After the show, security for the radio station’s building tried three times to clear the underground parking lot of reporters before the mayor would emerge. When he did, he and a small entourage barrelled through the assembled crowd to his SUV. He answered none of the questions that were thrown at him – including whether he has ever smoked crack or was an addict – and forced a few reporters to jump back for safety as he swung his vehicle towards the ramp leading to the street.
With files from Oliver Moore