As Mayor Rob Ford declared on Wednesday that he is "itching" for the Toronto election campaign to begin, one of his top rivals, Councillor Karen Stintz, took aim at his performance during the crippling ice storm.
Ms. Stintz, who stood two spots away from Mr. Ford at the start of the annual New Year's Day levee at City Hall, contended the city lacked clear leadership in the aftermath of the storm, which severed power to about 300,000 homes, businesses and other electricity customers. Around 100 customers started Wednesday without power in Toronto, more than a week after the ice storm walloped the city, other parts of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.
"During the week of the storm, we didn't benefit from having a strong mayor, which we should have had in that kind of situation," Ms. Stintz said. "The reality is we had [deputy mayor] Norm Kelly, we had the Premier, and we had the mayor and it wasn't clear who was in charge at any given point in time."
Mr. Ford did not stop to speak with reporters. In brief comments made before he greeted more than 400 people at the levee, Mr. Ford focused on the October municipal election. Nominations for candidates open Thursday.
"I just want to get going in this election. I'm itching to register tomorrow morning. First thing," said Mr. Ford, standing on a red carpet in a navy pinstripe suit.
Asked whether he had any personal resolutions for 2014, Mr. Ford offered: "Keep taxes low and win the election."
Mr. Ford has been embroiled in a drug scandal since May, when U.S. website Gawker and the Toronto Star reported that drug dealers showed the news organizations a video of the mayor allegedly smoking crack cocaine from a glass pipe.
After months of denying he had used the illegal drug, the mayor admitted in November he has smoked crack cocaine. His admission came after Toronto police revealed they had retrieved a copy of the Ford video from a computer hard drive seized during mid-June raids on an Etobicoke gang known as the Dixon City Bloods.
These revelations, along with other drug, alcohol and sexual-harassment allegations, prompted city council to strip the mayor of many of his powers in an unprecedented vote in November. The effect of that move manifested in the city's response to the ice storm and blackout.
The mayor, who retains authority to declare a state of emergency, held regular media briefings, but was not involved in talks with the Premier or with the city's emergency committee. Instead, Mr. Kelly helped steer the response behind the scenes. Mr. Kelly took over as chairman of the Toronto Emergency Management Program Committee because of council's vote.
Mr. Kelly said Wednesday he does not plan to run for the city's top political job.
Ms. Stintz does, although she said she won't file her nomination papers Thursday.
Mr. Ford's contenders face a tough challenge. Despite a tumultuous year and global notoriety, the mayor has retained strong support in many pockets of Toronto.
Retired cleaner Maria Rebelo, 70, is one of Mr. Ford's supporters. She attended the levee to show that the allegations against the mayor have not swayed her vote. "Everybody makes mistakes. I make mistakes," she said.
Kevin Mader, who erected lawn signs and knocked on doors on behalf of Mr. Ford in 2010, said he's ready to campaign for the mayor again. He believes Mr. Ford is the best mayor Toronto has ever had.
"What he does in his personal life is personal," Mr. Mader said. "Everybody is human. Everybody has personal problems and I only worry about the taxpayers' money."
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