Editor's Note: The following is the first of three online articles explaining the Toronto City Hall saga that has gripped the country. Parts II and III can be found by following the links below.
Since allegations surfaced that the mayor of Canada’s largest city was caught on tape smoking crack, Toronto’s city hall has been mired in controversy. There have been mass resignations and a dismissal in the mayor’s office. And questions have been raised about a photograph of Rob Ford standing beside a man who became a homicide victim.
Events have been spooling out so quickly in the Rob Ford affair that it is hard to keep up. New resignations from the mayor’s office, new allegations in the newspapers – every day seems to bring some new twist. Here’s what we know so far:
How did it all start?
Stories about strange behaviour by the mayor began to circulate in March when Sarah Thomson, a magazine publisher and candidate for mayor in 2010, said Mr. Ford had grabbed her buttocks at a reception while they posed for photographs. She said he appeared intoxicated. Mr. Ford called the allegations “absolutely, completely false” and suggested that Ms. Thomson was not “playing with a full deck.” Later that month, a newspaper report suggested he was asked to leave a military ball because he seemed to be intoxicated. The mayor called the report an “outright lie.”
Where did the video come from?
On May 17 the Gawker website published a story saying its editor had been shown a video of a man who appeared to be Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. Shortly afterward, the Toronto Star ran a story saying that two of its reporters had also viewed the video. Neither organization was able to secure a copy. Mr. Ford called the reports ridiculous and accused the Star of being out to get him, but did not elaborate. A week later, facing growing pressure to say more, Mr. Ford gave a longer statement in which he insisted “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine. I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist.” Critics noted that the mayor did not say he had never smoked crack cocaine. He did not take questions at his news conference and has refused to answer reporters’ questions about the allegation since.
What about Doug Ford?
Last week, The Globe published an investigative article quoting 10 sources who said he was a dealer of hashish in the 1980s. He denies it.
What is happening in the mayor’s office?
Six staffers have left the office of the mayor since the affair broke open, including his chief of his staff and his press secretary. Mr. Ford says he never stands in the way of staffers who leave for better opportunities, but the rash of departures seems to go deeper than that. The Globe and other papers reported that the chief of staff, Mark Towhey, was fired after telling the mayor he should take time to get help for his problem.
Are the police involved?
Police say they are keeping a close watch on the situation. Reports in The Globe and other papers say that Mr. Towhey went to police after another Ford staffer asked him “hypothetically” what they should do if they had information about the location of the alleged video. Other reports say that the mayor himself told staff not to worry because he knew where the video was and even mentioned a suburban Toronto address.
What about that murder?
A photograph associated with the alleged video shows the mayor posing with Anthony Smith, who was later shot dead outside a Toronto nightclub. Another man in the photo was also shot at the time, but survived. This week The Globe reported that police in Alberta had arrested a suspect in the killing. Another man is already facing murder charges.
What happens next?
Goodness knows. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she is worried about the Ford affair and would consider intervening if necessary, but it is not clear what she would do and on Friday she appeared to back off on her comments about intervention. Mr. Ford insists he is staying on and is gearing up for the next election on Oct. 27, 2014. Some of his city council associates say he should step aside until the video affair is cleared up. Everything depends on the video (assuming it exists). The affair could drag on and on unless it comes out and authorities and the public have a chance to assess what they see.
WHAT ABOUT THE VIDEO?
It began in Manhattan, where on May 16 a blog posting altered the course of Toronto politics. Gawker.com editor John Cook’s report on watching a video allegedly showing Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine has touched off a cycle of allegation and denial overshadowing all other business at City Hall and prompting the departures of six staffers from the mayor’s office. A brief primer on the megabytes that threaten the mayor:
The men holding the video supplied Mr. Cook and two reporters from the Toronto Star with a picture showing Mr. Ford standing alongside Anthony Smith, who died in a hail of gunfire on March 28. Another man who survived the shooting, Mohammed Khattak, also appears in the photo. He has been in hiding since The Globe and Mail and other media outlets tracked him down at his parents’ home.
The three towers of Kingsview Park loom over a stretch of North Etobicoke. It was in a unit at 320 Dixon Rd. that Ford staff member David Price, according to a source close to the administration, said the video was being hidden while drug dealers shopped it around.
Gawker launched a fundraising campaign to buy the video from the drug dealers who Mr. Cook said were holding it. Dubbed “Crackstarter” after the popular fundraising site Kickstarter, the campaign has raised $201,254. Mr. Cook’s contacts have gone silent, however, and Gawker is giving them one month to come forward with the video.
Who has seen it
Mr. Cook and two reporters from the Toronto Star have all provided detailed descriptions of the video, which they say runs 90 seconds in length.
Ford denies it
Mr. Ford initially called reports of the video “ridiculous” before going silent for a week. He finally addressed the allegation in a City Hall speech, asserting he is not “an addict of crack cocaine” and later saying the video “doesn’t exist” on his weekly radio show.
His deputy believes it
None other than Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, once Mr. Ford’s political hero, said he believes a video exists based on a convincing discussion with one of the Star reporters.
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