Toronto Mayor Rob Ford acknowledges having a “minor setback” in drinking again and being caught on video in a rambling, expletive-laced rant about the city’s police chief – but insists the latest episode is a private matter.
An unapologetic Mr. Ford read the remarks from a prepared statement on Wednesday after a crucial budget vote at the executive committee approved a 1.75-per-cent property-tax increase – 2.23 per cent when adjusted to reduce industrial and commercial rates. The latest revelations renewed calls among city councillors for the scandal-plagued mayor to step aside and seek professional help, and could throw Toronto’s city hall into turmoil again.
“I’m a human being – the same as every one of you,” Mr. Ford said. “I’m entitled to a personal life, and my personal life does not interfere with the work that I do day in, day out for the taxpayers of this great city.” The mayor just two months ago admitted he had smoked crack cocaine in a “drunken stupor,” but swore he had given up drugs and alcohol. On Wednesday, he said he is “still working hard” to improve his health, but did not provide details.
The mayor spent much of his day acting as if it was business as usual. At the executive committee, he spoke against staffing levels at city hall and the proposed property tax increase (which still needs to be approved by the full council). The mayor is scheduled to deliver a speech on Thursday to the Economic Club of Canada, which says the event will go on as planned. But while Mr. Ford called the suggestion that his drinking is affecting his work “absolute nonsense,” many disagreed.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called Mr. Ford’s public intoxication a distraction for the city, adding that she will continue to work with Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly – who has taken on many of the mayor’s powers. “To the degree that this discussion about one person’s personal issues can detract and distract from the business of growing Toronto and making sure Toronto is the best that it can be, then that does concern me,” she said.
Mr. Ford’s council colleagues echoed this.
“If he thinks that this is just personal and doesn’t impact life at city hall, he is dreaming in absolute technicolour, absolute technicolour,” Councillor Joe Mihevc said. “These are the rantings of an addicted man.”
Mayor Ford’s brother and frequent defender, Councillor Doug Ford, (who is not on the executive committee) was not at City Hall on Wednesday.
The video shot in a fast-food restaurant on Monday night – which shows the mayor speaking in Jamaican patois and gesturing wildly while ranting incoherently about Toronto police Chief Bill Blair – is one of two new videos posted to YouTube this week.
The other video, believed to have been filmed this week, shows Mr. Ford sitting in a restaurant with his friend Alessandro Lisi, who is facing criminal charges including extortion related to a video of the mayor allegedly smoking crack video, as well as possession and trafficking of marijuana.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said the second video sends a bad signal to the public. “I think the mayor – and elected officials – are judged by the company they keep,” he said.
Mr. Kelly described the video as disturbing.
“He’s got problems, legal ones, possibly criminal ones, and I think that in light of all of the revelations of the past couple of months, I would have thought that the mayor would have wanted to distance himself from those issues, and regrettably, he hasn’t.”
Councillor Gloria Lindsay-Luby said for the mayor of Canada’s largest city “there’s no such thing as private time, especially when you are a very visible mayor.” She noted disapprovingly that Mr. Ford appears to be wearing a City of Toronto pin on his lapel in the video.
And Councillor Shelley Carroll said there is no question alcohol use is affecting Mr. Ford’s work. “We know what the mayor was doing on Monday night,” she said. “And we know that he was expected to be in City Hall by 10:30 yesterday morning, and he showed up around 3.”
With a report from Adrian Morrow