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Defiant Rob Ford hits back at critics, invites allies to resign from executive committee

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford heads out of his office early Monday morning on Nov. 04, 2013. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says his allies should step down from his cabinet-like executive committee if they no longer support him.

Mr. Ford took to the radio airwaves Monday morning to reiterate his determination to stay in office while apologizing for his past bad behaviour.

He revealed that he told Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who spelled out the mayor's allies' concerns during a private meeting on Saturday, that he would "understand" if he didn't want the post any more, adding that Mr. Kelly said he is committed to staying on.

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On Monday, Mr. Ford sent the same message to the other members of his executive committee – some of whom have reportedly been critical of his apology on Sunday and suggested he should take a leave of absence.

"I'll be running the ship even if it's by myself," the mayor said on AM640.

Councillor Frank Di Giorgio, who is the budget chief, would not say if he is satisfied with the mayor's remarks, but said he expects councillors will "coalesce" behind the mayor to prop him up.

However, he questioned the mayor's "state."

"Whether he is in a personal state of, whether mind or physical state, to actually help as much as he thinks he can, that's a different issue," he told reporters Monday. "That's for someone else to answer."

Mr. Kelly told reporters that the mayor's apology and promise to change his behaviour were "a good first step."

Asked whether he had hoped Mr. Ford would step aside, he said: "Well, he's made his decision. I'll work with him. I'll hold him to his commitment. And hopefully time will prove that he's made the right decision."

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However, Mr. Kelly said the mayor should "reflect on" whether it would be a conflict of interest for him to be involved in setting the police budget this year given he was a focus of a large-scale investigation.

Councillor Karen Stintz, who has declared her intention to run for mayor, said council needs to work together to continue the business of the city. "My view is that the mayor has spoken. He is not going to resign. He is not going to take a leave of absence. From my perspective the business of the city has to continue, " she said. "We just need to pull together to figure out how we will do the business of the city."

In the combative interview, Mr. Ford also said he had some "stories" about his fellow city councillors, but wouldn't share them, saying: "I'm not a rat. We'll leave it at that."

The mayor's surprise appearance on the radio station came a day after he made an at times emotional plea for forgiveness during his weekly radio show on Sunday.

Mr. Ford on Monday refused to answer questions about his association with Alessandro Lisi, who was charged with extortion last week in relation to his efforts to retrieve a video of the mayor allegedly smoking crack cocaine, according to a source.

"I'm not commenting on anything to do with what's before the courts," he said.

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The mayor repeated his challenge to Police Chief Bill Blair to release the video so everyone can judge for themselves. He also asked Chief Blair to answer questions about "how many millions were spent" conducting surveillance.

Mr. Ford reiterated his support of front-line police officers, pledging to hire 150 additional officers.

The mayor's brother, Councillor Doug Ford, also went on the offensive Monday afternoon, telling CP24's Stephen LeDrew that the "media wants blood," and comparing media coverage to "a lynch mob."

When asked why the mayor is shown posing in front of a known drug house, Doug told Mr. LeDrew: "He can't answer that. He takes tens of thousands of pictures. This morning, he was walking down the street, he's getting pictures taken. There's no person in Canada who gets his picture taken more than Rob."

Doug told Mr. LeDrew that the reason the mayor has not spoken to police is because he has received legal advice not to.

"Everyone in life makes mistakes," Doug said. "Rob addressed a couple mistakes he's made. He said he's not gonna do it any more, and he's gonna move forward."

On Friday, the Toronto Region Board of Trade added its voice to calls for political friends and foes to step aside, asking the mayor to take a leave for the good of the city. Mr. Ford's insistence on staying sets the stage for more turmoil as additional details about a police drug probe that mentions his name hundreds of times could become public, and politicians jockey for advantage in the lead-up to next year's municipal election.

With a report from Elizabeth Church, Karen Howlett and Ann Hui.

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