A Toronto city councillor says Mayor Rob Ford is hurting the city he governs by attacking the media in response to a newspaper story that alleges the mayor showed up intoxicated at a black-tie event.
Coun. Joe Mihevc appeared Wednesday on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, a day after a front-page Toronto Star story claimed Ford appeared to be intoxicated at the Feb. 23 Garrison Ball.
The Star story, which relied heavily on unnamed sources, said people close to the mayor and some event organizers reported Ford spoke at the dinner and cocktail gala in a rambling, incoherent manner and that organizers approached his staff, suggesting he should leave.
The Star story also suggested those close to Ford have been concerned about his drinking for some time.
Others who spoke to Ford at the gala told CBC News the mayor did not appear intoxicated.
'I have seen him … not fully there'
Ford responded angrily to the story on Tuesday, calling it "an outright lie." Mihevc told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway that Ford’s reaction to the story was "not accurate."
"Certainly the mayor’s comments yesterday were, let’s put it this way, not accurate," said Mihevc. "There is something there and I think many of us have been privy to it. However I don’t really want to focus on that. It is up to the mayor to come clean and to figure out what he needs to do to pull his life together."
'There is something there and I think many of us have been privy to it.' — Coun. Joe Mihevc
Galloway asked Mihevc, a left-leaning council member who has at times clashed with Ford but remains friendly with him, whether he has seen Ford appear intoxicated in public.
"I have seen him in situations where it appears he is not fully there," said Mihevc.
Mihevc was also critical of Ford’s claims there is a concerted effort by the media and those opposed to Ford’s cost-cutting agenda to oust him from office.
"Specifically that the whole world is conspiring against him. That simply is not true," said Mihevc. "Many of us have deep political divisions with him, however it is just not accurate that there’s this grand conspiracy that involves members of the media and that involves member of his political opponents …. He does a lot of this to himself."
CBC's Jamie Strashin spoke to a handful of other Toronto councillors on Wednesday, and none was able to verify Mihevc's observations about Ford's behaviour.
"I've spoken to seven or eight city councillors on the record this morning," said Strashin. "No one is saying that they've ever seen the mayor intoxicated at any event …. If they've seen anything, they're not talking about it."
Coun. Paul Ainslie, one of the organizers of the Feb. 23 gala, has confirmed that he spoke to Ford at the event and told the mayor's chief of staff that he thought it would be best if Ford left.
"At the Garrison Ball, there was concerns. I asked the mayor's chief of staff for the mayor to leave," Ainslie said.
Ainslie said he spoke with the mayor briefly, but would not say why he made the suggestion that Ford should leave. When asked if people approached him and raised issues about Ford's behaviour, or about how the mayor seemed at the gala, the councillor declined to comment.
'At the Garrison Ball, there was concerns. I asked the mayor's chief of staff for the mayor to leave.' —Coun. Paul Ainslie
On Tuesday night, the gala's organizing committee sent out an email statement saying that they did not ask Ford to leave.
"No member of the event’s organizing committee, including Councillor Paul Ainslie, directed the mayor to leave the event that night," the email said.
Ainslie told reporters Wednesday that he continues to stand by his comments.
"That's their letter. It wasn't my letter," he said.
Ainslie added that there was a table full of people who were behind him, and overheard his conversation with Ford's chief of staff asking that the mayor leave.
John Capobianco, a longtime friend of the Ford family and former federal Conservative candidate, also spoke to Metro Morning about the Ford story.
'I don't believe he has a problem... and the people close to him don't believe he has a problem.' —John Capobianco, longtime friend of the Ford family
Capobianco said he doesn’t believe Ford has a drinking or substance abuse problem and said he’s never seen the mayor intoxicated.
"Half the people who claim he was kicked out or intoxicated won’t give their names," said Capobianco. "We’re getting into the London Fleet Street type of media."
"If the mayor has an issue, he should deal with it with his family and his friends. I don’t believe he has a problem … and the people close to him don’t believe he has a problem."