He’s admitted to smoking crack cocaine in a drunken stupor. He’s been the focus of a police investigation. His powers have been severely curtailed. And he’s provided endless fodder for late-night talk shows.
Despite his challenges, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford plans to campaign for re-election in October.
Here are four things to watch for in 2014 related to Toronto’s controversial mayor:
WILL HE STAY ON AS MAYOR?
Despite widespread demands to step aside from political foes and friends alike, Mr. Ford has steadfastly maintained his grip on power.
City council removed many of Mr. Ford’s powers and much of his office budget and transferred them to deputy mayor Norm Kelly in November. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has said that, if asked, the province would consider changing the law to give Council more powers to sanction Mr. Ford. But council has not pursued this avenue.
Despite having less power, Mr. Ford has carried on as mayor, including holding daily updates on the recent ice storm although he is not a member of the city’s emergency committee.
Answer: Almost certainly.
WILL HE WIN RE-ELECTION?
The long campaign for the October municipal election kicks off on Thursday when nominations open. Mr. Ford has said his name will be on the ballot and that he’ll run on his record of saving taxpayers’ money.
For what they’re worth, polls have found that Mr. Ford still has a sizeable support base.
So far, two mayoral hopefuls have declared their candidacies: TTC chair Karen Stintz and former city councillor David Soknacki. But other challengers are weighing entering the race. NDP MP Olivia Chow has said she is considering a run. Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory and Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong are also believed to be considering bids.
Political observers say Mr. Ford’s chances of winning re-election rise as the number of his challengers goes up, given increased odds that the anti-Ford vote will split.
WILL THERE BE MORE FALLOUT FROM THE INVESTIGATION?
The Toronto Police investigation, dubbed Project Brazen 2, remains active but police are tight-lipped.
“There are still some matters that are being investigated and pursued, and I’m not going to comment on any ongoing matters,” Police Chief Bill Blair told The Globe last week.
The probe was launched in May after public allegations that the mayor was videotaped smoking crack cocaine.
Some observers have questioned why police have not charged the mayor. Police have said they need reasonable and probable grounds to lay a charge.
Mr. Ford has admitted to smoking crack cocaine and drinking and driving. A nearly 500-page police document contains other allegations, such as using heroin, consorting with gang members and a suspected prostitute, and sexually harassing a City Hall security guard. The allegations have not been tested in court, and the mayor and his supporters have dismissed them as false.
Answer: Too early to tell.
WILL THE VIDEO COME OUT?
Police recovered a copy of the video that appears to show Mr. Ford smoking crack cocaine in October from a hard drive seized during another investigation. Officers also recovered a second related video.
So far, the video has not surfaced publicly. While the mayor has challenged the police to release the recording, police say they cannot because it is evidence in an ongoing court case against Mr. Ford’s friend Alessandro (Sandro) Lisi, who was charged with extortion in relation to alleged efforts to retrieve the video.
If the case against Mr. Lisi goes to trial, the video could be entered as an exhibit and would then become publicly accessible. However, if Mr. Lisi pleads guilty, the video likely would not be available through the courts.
But the video could conceivably come out in another forum, such as by those who may have copies of it or through a possible public inquiry.