Toronto Mayor Rob Ford touted the fiscal achievements of his administration Thursday, during a speech to the Economic Club of Canada that was delayed for about an hour after he got stuck in an elevator.
“It’s a pleasure to be here today. I want to thank the Economic Club of Canada for hosting today’s event and getting me locked in the elevator for 45 minutes,” Ford jokingly told the audience gathered at a downtown Hilton hotel, at the start of his address.
Ford then went on to talk about the ways he believes his administration has made the city government leaner and more efficient.
“We’re now working better than ever before, we’re keeping taxes low by reducing the size and cost of government,” Ford said.
The reason for the mayor's late arrival was not explained until a few moments before his speech began.
Rhiannon Trail, the president and CEO of the Economic Club of Canada, said she was stuck in the same elevator as the mayor, along with some of his staff and some hotel employees.
She said there was no cellphone service in the elevator, though the group was able to use a built-in emergency system to call for help.
"Unfortunately, we were stuck in-between floors so they couldn't get us out for a while," she said.
Those who attended the mayor’s speech paid $89 a plate to be there. Some people walked out before he arrived and before an explanation of his absence was provided.
Re-election in mayor’s sights
Ford is seeking a second term as mayor.
“Ladies and gentlemen, on Oct. 27, you must ask yourself one question: Who do you trust with your hard-earned tax dollars?” Ford said, near the end of his address.
“My administration’s record on this front speaks for itself. Today, the City of Toronto is focused on driving efficiencies, investing in our capital priorities and making the most of every tax dollar.
“You trusted me, you trusted me to put your hard-earned money where it needs to go and I’m so proud to say that’s what my administration has done.”
So far, David Soknacki, a former city councillor, is the most high-profile candidate to formally register to run against Ford.
Coun. Karen Stintz, chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, has said she will be registering to run against the mayor as well.
The municipal election will be held on Oct. 27. Ford has said that the campaign is going to be a "bloodbath."
Ford’s address came just two days after he was caught on video in a rambling, profane rant mimicking a Jamaican accent.
Ford, who as recently as weeks ago promised that he had given up alcohol, has admitted he was drinking and called Monday's restaurant incident a "minor setback."
The YouTube video shows Ford using Jamaican swear words and other profanities, at one point aiming his curses at Toronto police Chief Bill Blair.
Ford offered no apologies on Wednesday and was defiant, saying he is entitled to a personal life, and what he does on his own time doesn't affect his work as mayor.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she is concerned Ford's personal problems are drawing attention away from the real issues facing Canada's largest city.
Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said he agrees Ford is entitled to a private life, but pointed out that his latest rant caught on video was not shot in a private place. It was taken at a Steak Queen restaurant in Etobicoke. Several councillors said Wednesday that Ford's personal problems have left him unable to serve as mayor.
"This is just a joke that has gone on too long," said Coun. Joe Mihevic. "He needs to understand how much he is hurting the brand, the City of Toronto. What I see is an addicted man who is in massive denial and is doing everything he can to hold onto power."
Coun. John Parker acknowledged a feeling of frustration over the fact that "the story keeps on regenerating itself."
While he believes that council carries on with its work regardless of what is going on with the mayor, Parker said Ford is not exactly thriving in his role as the city's chief magistrate.
"This mayor is consumed with his own circumstances and he’s not providing leadership to this city," he said.
Ford has found himself under intense scrutiny since reports emerged last May that someone had been shopping a video that showed him using crack.
While Ford denied the video’s existence, police revealed in October that they had obtained a video file that was consistent with what had been reported in the media.
Ford would later admit to using crack cocaine, as well as to drinking to excess and to buying illegal drugs while serving as mayor. These admissions and their related apologies made headlines around the world.
Despite calls to step down, Ford has endured in his position, though he had some of his powers stripped by council in the wake of his drug use admissions.