It's time for Mayor Rob Ford to leave office and stop "embarrassing" Toronto, a high-ranking provincial cabinet minister says.
Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Brad Duguid is the first member of Premier Kathleen Wynne's government to call on the embattled mayor to quit.
"I've got to tell you, I think that the mayor should step aside, I have for some time," Mr. Duguid said Thursday morning. "This has been a real challenge to Toronto."
Mr. Duguid, who represents a riding in Toronto's Scarborough area, is a former city councillor who co-chaired John Tory's 2003 mayoral campaign. He has made no secret of the fact that he wants Mr. Tory, the radio show host and former Progressive Conservative leader, to win next year's municipal election.
He said Mr. Ford is doing damage to the city's reputation.
"I think it's the time, I think we all know," he said. "I think Torontonians know that this has been challenging for our city, it's been embarrassing, it has not been good for our reputation. It's time to move forward."
However, he stopped short of saying whether he believed the province should intervene. And he suggested that city council, which stripped Mr. Ford of most of his powers last month, has the situation under control.
"Norm Kelly is doing a good job as deputy mayor, but I think this has been very disruptive to us all," he said. "Council has done a very good job under the circumstances, doing what they should be doing…as long as that's happening, then I think that's the route to go."
Despite the latest revelations in the Ford saga – including that police believe he tried to retrieve a video of himself smoking crack cocaine and that two men claimed to have photographs of the chief magistrate taking heroin – most provincial politicians refused to say that he should resign.
Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey said these allegations are "troubling," but that it is up to Rob Ford whether he stays in office or not.
Asked if Mr. Ford should resign, she said: "I think that's a choice that Mayor Ford has to decide on."
She repeated the government's position that the province will consider intervening if council asks.
"My job is to make sure that they operate effectively, that city services are being delivered effectively and I think that's the case…obviously, should [councillors] bring any requests to us, we will certainly consider them seriously," she said. "The residents of Toronto are going to make their own determination as to what they've been reading in the papers. I think they're very troubling allegations."
Attorney-General John Gerretsen suggested the province had nothing to do with decisions on whether or not to charge Mr. Ford.
"Allegations of any nature are always troubling, and there's always a concern," he said. "But, you know, our system is very clear: in our system, the police investigates and if appropriate they will lay the necessary charges. Once the charges are laid, then our Crown prosecutors will do their work in court."
New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath, meanwhile, sounded a note of sympathy for Mr. Ford.
"Anybody who is watching what is happening when it comes to the individual, Mr. Ford himself…would look to the situation in one of concern over his wellbeing and the wellbeing of his family," she said. "Look: he's a human being. He needs to deal with the problems that he has, he needs to address the impact that that has on his family, and I think everybody would hope that's what he does."