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Brazen and dishonest, Rob Ford defies belief

Mayor Rob Ford answers questions during a council meeting at City Hall in Toronto on Nov. 13, 2013.

KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

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And still he won't go?

After an ugly day at City Hall that saw him bully a fellow councillor, admit to buying illegal drugs and demand that everyone on city council take a drug test.

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After the release of more damning police material with allegations (so far unproven) of drunk driving, more drug use, racist remarks.

After everything that has happened over the past two incredible weeks – from the confirmation of a drug video he had denied, to the revelation of his secret life in a police-surveillance document, to his admission that he smoked crack cocaine while mayor, to the broadcast of a video clip showing him in an incoherent rage – it defies belief that Rob Ford thinks he can remain mayor of Canada's biggest city.

And yet there he was in city council on Wednesday, telling a silent, incredulous chamber: "I'm so proud of the record I have," and "I can't wait for the election." Boasting about how he was still "returning phone calls, watching every dime," he was full of defiance as he told those questioning his conduct: "If you want to carry this on, I can't stop ya. I'm moving on."

Even for a city that thought it was beyond being surprised by anything from Mr. Ford, it was a shocking, brazen, embarrassing performance. At one point, he confronted Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong on the council floor in a face-to-face stand-off that the councillor denounced as a physical threat amounting to "thuggery." At another, the mayor's brother Doug had to grab his arm and drag him back as he made to charge Mr. Minnan-Wong.

Councillor after councillor, many former allies, questioned him about his behaviour and his evasive explanations. His answers ranged from dishonest to belligerent to unintentionally hilarious.

Mike Del Grande, the mayor's former budget chief, reminded Mr. Ford that after he admitted unleashing a drunken tirade at a couple sitting near him in the Air Canada Centre during a hockey game in 2006, he agreed not to get drunk in public again. The mayor replied that he had kept the promise. After all, "it has never happened again at the Air Canada Centre." The standing-room-only crowd in the public gallery roared with laughter.

There were more sniggers when he called himself a "positive role model" for youth.

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Later, under questioning about his high standards for public employees and low standards for himself, Mr. Ford said, "I expect people when they come into work to be here on time … and be absolutely straight." This from a mayor who is late for many events, routinely fails to appear at his office until mid-morning, was out-of-control drunk at a late-night party at City Hall and spent hours consorting with a suspected drug dealer.

The mayor got angry when Councillor Michael Thompson wondered why he had been hanging around a suspected crack house. Mr. Ford insisted that it was not a crack house, despite being identified that way in police documents, and, anyway, how did Mr. Thompson know it was one if he had never been there? Mr. Thompson fired back that he would have no reason to be there because "I am not a crack user." It was a devastating comeback and it left the mayor sputtering.

The lowest point in the proceedings came when the Ford brothers tried to turn the tables on their critics, who now make up most of city council. A blustering Doug Ford demanded that Mr. Minnan-Wong tell council whether he had ever smoked marijuana. "Don't pretend you're a Christian when you're not," he yelled at the councillor, who is Catholic.

There were roars of disbelief from the gallery when the mayor himself, feigning reluctance, introduced his motion demanding drug tests of all councillors. "I am not a rat," he said. That just was not how he was raised, you see. But "I think we all know stories about each other here."

It was precisely the reaction of a cornered rat, willing to do anything to escape.

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

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