Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is once again facing questions about his fitness to hold office and the company he keeps.
As city council met Tuesday morning to debate the future of a Scarborough subway extension, councillors from both sides of the political divide expressed concerns about Mr. Ford's possible links to an ongoing police investigation and his relationship with Alexander "Sandro" Lisi, who was arrested last week on drug charges. Mr. Ford has described Mr. Lisi as "a good guy" and "a friend."
Mr. Lisi, who also has acted as Mr. Ford's occasional driver, and Jamshid Bahrami, the owner of an Etobicoke dry-cleaning shop, were arrested as part of a drug investigation called Project Brazen 2, The Globe and Mail has learned.
"The mayor needs to make a decision between his friends and the City of Toronto," said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a member of the mayor's executive committee.
"It shows a level of bad judgment that he associates with people that may have criminal records and who may be involved in buying and selling drugs," Mr. Minnan-Wong told reporters. "That's not something that anybody should be proud of. I'd like to see a mayor who stands up for things we do believe in like law and order, who says no to drugs and who takes a hard line on crime. "
Councillor Shelley Carroll, a frequent critic of the mayor, said that if Mr. Ford is under police investigation, he needs to step aside.
"The connection to me would be: Are the police, as a result of investigating Mr. Lisi, are they also investigating Mr. Ford? Then it's time for the mayor to step down," she said.
Mr. Ford refused to answer questions Tuesday morning. "We are talking about subways guys – subways, subways and more subways. Keep taxes low. Fight for the taxpayer," he said.
Councillor Doug Ford came to his brother's defence, suggesting that both Mr. Minnan-Wong and Ms. Carroll's comments were driven by their own ambitions to be mayor and questioning how reports of the police investigation ended up in the media.
"I support the police investigation. I support the police. I just hope the police aren't working hand-in-hand with the Toronto Star," he told reporters.
The Etobicoke councillor said the mayor should be judged on his political record. "This is up to the people to decide next election if they enjoyed his policies… or do they want to get personal," he said.
Project Brazen 2 arose out of information obtained during Project Traveller, a year-long guns-and-gangs investigation that resulted in 44 arrests after a crackdown on a row of apartment buildings in northwest Etobicoke.
The spinoff project started around the same time as the June Traveller raids, and is being led by Detective Sergeant Gary Giroux, one of Toronto Police's lead homicide investigators. Toronto Police had previously said that Sgt. Giroux is involved because of his expertise in leading complicated investigations.
The investigation is not related to Project Brazen, a probe into two Scarborough gangs that led to more than 400 charges earlier this month.