Two-and-a-half weeks after disappearing from public life with a promise to attend rehab for addiction issues, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has surfaced in Ontario cottage country.
The mayor was spotted at a Bank of Montreal and local dry cleaners early Friday afternoon around Lake Muskoka. Mr. Ford posed for several photos with locals and was reportedly telling people he is enjoying his time at rehab.
Area resident Bill Bird said he saw Mr. Ford walking into a Bracebridge bank around 1:30 p.m.
“I was walking in and he was walking out right by me and I thought: he looks familiar,” Mr. Bird said. After a double-take, Mr. Bird realized he was in fact staring at Canada’s most infamous politican.
“He looked exactly the same as he does on television.”
Outside the bank, Mr. Ford took time to pose for a few photos, which began circulating on social media shortly after the visit. In one, he seems to be waving from the front seat of a white transport truck. Others show the mayor’s black Escalade parked outside the bank, suggesting he drove to the plaza.
In another, the mayor can be seen grinning in a suit alongside employees at a Gravenhurst dry cleaners called Fabricare.
Erine Strength said she had just arrived for her shift at about 2 p.m. when she saw Mr. Ford at the counter, dropping off a navy suit for dry-cleaning.
“We checked him in and then asked him if he would be able to take a picture of himself with our staff and he was more than happy to do that for us,” she said. “He was happy and jovial and very polite to all our staff.”
Ms. Strength said Mr. Ford was at the store for about 10 minutes.
“He was happy and smiling,” she said. “He was a pleasure to have in the store.”
Reached Friday afternoon, the mayor’s lawyer, Dennis Morris, said Mr. Ford is still getting treatment, although he declined to say where.
“If you focus on where he is, it would invade the privacy of other individuals at that facility,” Mr. Morris said.
Mr. Ford announced he was taking a leave of absence the same night The Globe and Mail revealed two of its reporters had viewed a video of Toronto’s mayor allegedly smoking crack cocaine. Mr. Ford initially flew to Chicago, but turned back at the border for undisclosed reasons. There have been rumours of Ford sightings in the Muskoka-area since then, but nothing definitive until Friday, which happened to be the one-year anniversary of the first crack video story.
Toronto police launched an investigation into Mr. Ford’s activities last May and in October, charged the mayor’s friend and occasional driver Alessandro Lisi with extortion in connection to attempts to retrieve the initial video.
Bracebridge and Gravenhurst are small communities about two and half hours north of Toronto.