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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford speaks at a press conference at City Hall on Nov. 5, 2013.

FERNANDO MORALES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

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The end of a wild day in the history of Toronto found Mayor Rob Ford standing before a throng of media in the cramped lobby of his office. The throng went silent as he entered the room, his brother Doug, jaw set in a frown, by his side. Red-faced, his voice thick with his emotion, the mayor conceded that "I embarrassed everyone in the city and I will be forever sorry."

Almost pleading, this steamroller of a mayor made a pitch for a second chance: "I know, I know I have to regain your trust and your confidence." Sadly, there is small hope of that now.

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Mr. Ford came to office in 2010 on a wave of anger and hope – anger at what seemed an ineffectual, bloated city hall; hope for positive change. He struck many voters as a gust of fresh air – rumpled, frank, untutored, the definition of a straight shooter.

Now he stands exposed as the author of a great deception. The man who first brushed off reports of a drug video as "ridiculous" now admits to having used crack cocaine, "probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago."

The impact on those around him must be devastating. Think of all those loyal denizens of Ford Nation who proudly wore his colours and denounced the allegations against him as slanderous rumour. Think of the staffers who shielded him from questions and defended him against all comers. Think of his family.

As former Ontario premier Bob Rae said on Twitter, it is not the drug abuse that is the worst of this. It is the people abuse.

Yet Mr. Ford has the nerve to think he can breeze past it all and get right back to "saving taxpayers money." In the space of a few hours, he said both that he smoked crack cocaine and that he is staying on as mayor. These statements are irreconcilable. His assertion that he is not actually an addict is hardly reassuring. Are we willing to set the bar so low?

His claim that he never admitted smoking crack before because reporters never asked him the right question is beyond absurd. They asked him precisely the right question – Have you ever smoked crack? – dozens of times over the past several months.

As recently as Monday morning, AM640 radio host John Oakley put it to him. "I can assure you, Johnny, I do not use drugs," he replied. "I drink."

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He says he is sorry now. He "sincerely, sincerely, sincerely" apologizes. He says it will "never, ever, ever" happen again. He insists that, "Folks, I have nothing left to hide."

If he really has nothing to hide, why is he refusing to be interviewed by police? If he really wants to change, why doesn't he listen to those on city council who have been pleading with him at least to take a leave and get his life in order? If "there is only one person to blame for this, and that is myself," why have he and his brother been attacking police chief Bill Blair?

Tuesday's admission laid his contradictions bare. The mayor who coached football to keep youth out of trouble with drugs has been in deep trouble himself. The mayor who denounced reporters as liars for exposing his misbehaviour has been hiding the truth about himself.

The Rob Ford that Toronto elected promised to keep watch over those wasteful scoundrels at city hall. Honesty and accountability in government were his watchwords.

They ring hollow now. He came clean about using crack only after Chief Blair confirmed the existence of the famous video – only, in short, when he was backed into a corner.

Mr. Ford says that he loves Toronto. In this, he seems sincere. If so, he must see that the disgrace he has brought on himself is doing the city harm. The scandal is making headlines around the world.

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Why, then, does he insist on staying on? "I can't do anything else than apologize," he says. Yes, he can. He can leave, and get some help.

Marcus Gee is The Globe's Toronto City Hall columnist.

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