Toronto Mayor Rob Ford stole the spotlight at an event presenting the city's winter operation plans, where questions from media quickly diverged from snow plows to the latest allegations against the mayor.
When Mr. Ford was asked at the Friday morning event about police documents released this week alleging he used crack cocaine as recently as April, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who was scheduled to host the event, gave a cheeky interjection.
"The mayor is only answering questions as they relate to the snow that falls on the ground," he said.
But the mayor was unfazed, ignoring questions about the latest allegations and clambering into a nearby snow blower, instructing the media to step in front of the mammoth machine, laughing.
Asked why he decided to come to the event, to which he wasn't scheduled to attend and which doesn't generally fall under a mayor's duties, the mayor shrugged.
"I can't keep track of all the events that I go to but I go to a lot of events. I was out at two events last night. Busy, busy, running around," Mr. Ford said.
Over the weekend he plans to attend the Etobicoke Santa Claus parade, according to his brother Councillor Doug Ford. He didn't march in the downtown Toronto parade last month after he was politely asked not to attend.
The mayor's brother, during a tense, lengthy scrum with reporters at city hall, also said he and the mayor plan to attend the funeral of Toronto police officer John Zivcic Monday, even though a police investigation involving the mayor is ongoing.
"We differentiate between the police chief – that's very political and has an agenda, in my opinion, to get rid of the mayor – versus the front-line police officers," he said.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has maintained that they have conducted their investigation "without fear and without favour." When asked if Toronto Police have any issues with the mayor's attendance at the funeral, police spokesman Mark Pugash said only: "It's a public event."
Mr. Pugash added the mayor's office has contacted police about the funeral to let them know Mr. Ford plans to be there.
During the scrum, Councillor Ford also criticized the media and police investigators and hinted at a conspiracy against the mayor.
"Isn't it amazing how this timing took place? In my opinion, folks, this is a clear, clear agenda, [a] very well-organized agenda from some of our competitors," he said, before comparing Toronto media to "Soviet Stalin-era Pravda journalism."
"I wasn't the one who decided to release some of the documents and then time it a little longer, release a little more. What are they going to release next?"
Earlier this week, another stack of police documents involving the mayor were made public by the courts. The documents – the contents of which have not been proven in court – say that the mayor attempted to buy a video from alleged gang members who also claimed they had photos of him doing drugs, including heroin. While Mr. Ford directed all questions to his lawyer, Dennis Morris, the mayor's brother denied the mayor has used heroin or associated with gang members while holding the title of mayor.
On Friday, Conrad Black sat down with the mayor and Councillor Ford for an interview for Mr. Black's weekly TV show. The mayor and Mr. Black chatted in his office for about 40 minutes, but the former newspaper baron was tight-lipped about the interview. "I'm not going to tell you," Mr. Black told reporters as he left city hall, calling Mayor Ford a "very nice man" who is "not a bad influence to youth."
Asked if he would support Mr. Ford in his bid for re-election, Mr. Black replied: "depends who the opposition is."
Special to the Globe and Mail, with a report from Patrick White