After months of denial, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admits to smoking crack cocaine, but says he has no plans to step aside from his job
- Mayor Ford admits to smoking crack cocaine
- Ford still wants police to release video
- Mayor says crack admission was 'embarrassing'
The curtain has drawn on a dramatic day at Toronto City Hall in which Mayor Rob Ford admitted that he had smoked crack cocaine, though the defiant chief magistrate is making no plans to step down from his job.
Ford made the shocking admission late Tuesday morning and spoke again with reporters hours later, describing his shame at hiding the truth from his family and colleagues.
The admission was "the most difficult and embarrassing thing I have ever had to do," Ford told a crush of media gathered at city hall.
The mayor, speaking in a slow, grave tone and wearing an NFL logos tie, said he was "ashamed" but felt like "1,000 pounds have been lifted off my shoulders" after his earlier admission that he has used crack cocaine.
"To the residents of Toronto, I know I have let you down and I can't do anything else but apologize and apologize, and I'm so sorry," he said.
The mayor also absolved his brother, Coun. Doug Ford, of having any knowledge about his substance abuse issues.
"I kept this from my family — especially my brother, Doug — my staff, my council colleagues, because I was embarrassed and ashamed," he said, with his brother standing to his right.
Despite the many calls for him to step down, Ford said he still had a job to do at city hall.
"I was elected to do a job and that’s exactly what I’m going to continue doing," Ford said, telling reporters that voters will decide next year when the municipal election is held if he should keep his job as mayor.
Ford’s admission that he had smoked crack cocaine comes after months of denials.
"Folks, I have nothing left to hide," Ford said.
‘I have smoked crack cocaine’
When Ford made his admission during the midday, he told reporters it probably occurred "in one of my drunken stupors" about a year ago.
"Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine," Ford said.
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"But, no — do I? Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Um, probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago."
The mayor suggested that he hadn’t been lying when reporters previously asked him about his drug use, questions raised after a series of media reports about an alleged video of him smoking crack cocaine.
The mayor had denied that video’s existence, but Toronto police Chief Bill Blair has said it is now in the possession of police. Ford has since called for that video to be released for all to see.
"So, I wasn’t lying. You didn’t ask the correct questions,” Ford said Tuesday, referring to the prior questions he had faced about using drugs.
"No, I’m not an addict and no, I do not do drugs. I made mistakes in the past and all I can do is apologize, but it is what it is and I can’t change the past."
"Yes, I've made mistakes, all I can do now is apologize and move on," the mayor said. "I can apologize to my family, my friends, my colleagues and the people of this great city."
The CBC’s Jamie Strashin reported Tuesday that Ford’s staff members were told about the plans to admit his drug use only minutes before the mayor spoke to reporters.
Ford colleagues react
Ford's admission of drug use drew immediate response from colleagues at city hall. Many are calling for the mayor to step aside to sort out his personal issues.
Coun. Jaye Robinson said that Ford does not have even “a shred of credibility,” and she wants to see him take a leave of absence.
"The real issue is getting the mayor to address his health issues, step aside [and] take a leave of absence, as I’ve been saying for six long months," said Robinson. "And now he’s coming forward and he’s admitting that there is clearly a problem here."
Robinson was previously a member of the mayor’s executive committee, though she was ousted from her position as the chair of the community and recreation development committee after she urged Ford to take a leave of absence.
After the mayor held his second news conference to apologize, Coun. Josh Matlow said that Ford simply needs to go.
Mayor Ford has lied to Toronto & has taken no real actions to address his problems. He's put his own interests before all. He must resign.— Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow) November 5, 2013
The same day that Ford admitted to using crack cocaine, news broke that councillors have prepared at least two separate motions related to his behaviour.
One motion from Coun. John Filion seeks to strip the mayor of his ability to hire or fire the deputy mayor, or any of the standing committee chairs.
A second motion from Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong calls on the mayor to apologize, co-operate with police in their investigation and to take a temporary leave of absence.
"I think it’s time for him to take a break," Minnan-Wong said when speaking with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, about an hour after the mayor admitted to having smoked crack cocaine.
Other councillors tweeted reactions:
Mayor Ford claims to represent the "little guy." The "little guy" and your Average Joe as far as I know do not smoke crack cocaine. #TOpoli— Kristyn Wong-Tam 黃慧文 (@kristynwongtam) November 5, 2013
Premier Kathleen Wynne said Tuesday that she had heard the mayor’s admission, but left it to the police and the judicial system to "take action."
When speaking with reporters, Wynne said that what has been going at city hall "is of great concern to everyone in the city of Toronto."
The city’s former deputy mayor Doug Holyday said Tuesday that he respects what Ford has accomplished as mayor, but that the mayor must deal with the issues in his personal life.
Holyday won a seat in the provincial legislature during a summer byelection, which led to his recent departure from city hall.
It was unclear Tuesday how Ford's sudden admission of prior drug use will affect his future as Toronto's mayor. There is no legal mechanism to remove him from office for using drugs.
Ford, 44, was elected as the mayor of Toronto three years ago. He still has another year to go in his current term. The mayor has said he intends to run for a second term. Days ago, he predicted that next year’s election campaign is going to be "a bloodbath."
A controversial tenure
During his time as mayor, Ford has consistently drawn headlines both for his work at city hall and his life outside of it.
Alongside the recent questions about his drug use, Ford has also faced questions about the people he associates with in his private life.
Toronto police undertook an investigation into allegations regarding the video, which involved following the mayor and other individuals. Ground and aerial surveillance were used.
That investigation saw police charge Alexander Lisi, also known as Sandro or Alessandro, with extortion.
Ford has said that Lisi, who has served as an occasional driver for the mayor, is a friend.
The drug controversy is not the only high-profile challenge Ford has faced in office.
He faced a conflict-of-interest challenge that saw a judge order him removed from office, but he ended up winning an appeal and hanging onto his job.
Ford also faced a defamation lawsuit that was eventually dismissed.
On a number of occasions, Ford has been accused of acting strangely or inappropriately at public events. During his most recent Sunday radio broadcast, he apologized for "mistakes" he had made, including getting “hammered” at the Taste of the Danforth street festival this year and in letting things get out of control on St. Patrick’s Day last year.
Recently, Ford faced criticism for writing reference letters for Lisi, who also faces drug charges and has been convicted of threatening to kill his girlfriend, as well as for a tow truck driver who is a convicted murderer.