Mayor Rob Ford says he will head to Ottawa tomorrow to advocate on Toronto's behalf for funds it needs for key transit and housing projects.
But when he finished a nearly seven-minute spiel about the Big City Mayors’ Caucus and the needs of Toronto at a news conference on Tuesday, reporters began asking him whether he had been using drugs in recent months.
"Any other questions?" Ford said, shortly before walking away from a podium at Toronto City Hall.
The news conference had followed Ford’s earlier appearance on NBC's Today show, in which host Matt Lauer asked the mayor in a live interview if he had been using drugs in the past three months.
"I don’t use illegal drugs. I experimented with them, like, probably a year ago, but I don’t use drugs," Ford told the NBC host.
Ford accused reporters in Toronto of being "jealous" that he did an interview with a U.S. station.
Asked further why he was dodging the drug issue, Ford said: "I already said it."
He then said: "I said no. And you don't understand the 'n' or the 'o', I’m not quite sure what you don't understand."
Ford has been the subject of intensive media attention for months, particularly after he publicly admitted in November to having smoked crack.
His admission came after months of denials, with Ford suggesting to reporters that they had been asking him the wrong questions about his drug use up until that point.
The story of Ford’s drug use made headlines around the world and made the mayor the butt of jokes from late-night comedians.
Ford, 44, is seeking a second term as mayor, though he is up against increasingly stiff competition for his job.
More than two dozen candidates have filed papers to run for mayor, including Coun. Karen Stintz, former Ontario PC leader John Tory and former city councillor David Soknacki. Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow and Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong have both said they are still considering possible mayoral bids.
The election will take place on Oct. 27.
Many wonder why Ford is attending Wednesday's meeting in Ottawa, given that he has routinely bashed the organization as being a waste of time and money.
Asked about his apparent change of heart, Ford said that the city simply needs help paying for major social housing and transit improvements in the coming decade.
"I realize that we need this funding," he said at the news conference on Tuesday.
Coun. Adam Vaughan suggested that Ford’s presence in Ottawa will be a distraction, while Coun. Paula Fletcher said she wasn’t sure that Ford was representing the city in the manner he thinks he is.
"He thinks he’s representing the city, I’m not sure that anybody else thinks he’s representing the city," Fletcher said.
In November, Toronto City Council stripped Ford of selected powers in the wake of the drug scandal. Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly took on some of those powers.
Kelly won’t be attending the meeting in Ottawa. He released a statement Tuesday saying that he looks forward "to hearing what common ground can be found on issues of importance to Canada`s largest cities and what actions will be pursued in the future."
The Big City Mayors’ Caucus is made up of the leaders of more than 20 cities in Canada, which are members of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.