A longtime staff member quits the Toronto mayor's office, one day after Ford's public admission of crack cocaine use
Some of Mayor Rob Ford’s closest supporters say he must immediately take a leave of absence in the wake of his admission he has used crack cocaine, while other city councillors continue to push for him to be politically sidelined if he fails to do so.
Ford shocked the city when he finally admitted Tuesday to smoking crack cocaine, months after reports first surfaced that he had been caught on video using the drug.
Coming after months of denials and coupled with his recent apology for "mistakes," some of which were related to alcohol, many councillors are adamant that the mayor needs to take a step back right away.
"I think it’s important that he take a leave of absence for a while, for a few weeks, to sort out his personal issues and deal with his family issues," said Coun. Frances Nunziata, a staunch supporter of the mayor throughout his three years at the helm of council.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told CBC’s Power & Politics that he had been "arguing for a pause" for the mayor.
"I think that he’s got to get away from city hall. I think he’s got to address the personal issues in his life and his family. And to the degree that he can regroup and come back to council, in, I don’t know, could be four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks. The length of time would be up to him."
Kelly also said he would support a motion calling on the mayor to take a temporary break from his job.
When asked if the mayor should go to rehab to get treatment for either alcohol or drugs, Kelly said he didn’t know the degree to which those issues afflict him.
"But certainly at a minimum, he’s got to talk to somebody that could give him good health advice, well-being advice."
Kelly said he learned about Ford’s crack cocaine use at the same time everyone else did. The mayor made the admission to a scrum of reporters outside his city hall office.
"Not only was the announcement stunning, but so too was the context. Who would have thunk it?"
Budget chief Frank Di Giorgio said Wednesday that he wasn’t sure if the mayor would respond to continued pressure from council members for him to take a leave of absence.
But Di Giorgio said that "if there is a general feeling that if we push hard enough, we may in fact force him to take time off, then I think that might be worthwhile to try and do."
Also on Wednesday, the mayor saw one of his long-term staffers, Brooks Barnett, leave his office in the wake of his drug-use admission, reported the CBC’s Jamie Strashin.
Barnett had worked as a policy adviser to the mayor.
A series of staff members departed Ford's office earlier this year, after reports emerged that he had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine.
‘Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine’
The mayor long denied the existence of a video, the details of which were reported by the Toronto Star and Gawker, or that he smokes crack cocaine, but late last week police said they had obtained the video and that its contents were consistent with what had been reported.
Over the weekend, Ford said he wanted the video released, and then told reporters on Tuesday that he had indeed smoked the drug.
"Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine," Ford said, while suggesting that he had not misled the media in previous denials as reporters had not asked him "the correct questions."
Although Ford did not pin down the exact date of his crack use, he said it probably occurred in "one of my drunken stupors, approximately about a year ago."
A few hours later, Ford spoke again to reporters, telling them about the "embarrassment" of admitting his drug use, which he said he had hidden from his family, staff and fellow council members.
But Ford said he had a job to do and he intended to carry on as mayor.
He also said he has "nothing left to hide."
Just two days before his crack-use admission, Ford apologized for "mistakes," which he said included getting "hammered" at the Taste of the Danforth street festival and letting things get out of control on St. Patrick's Day last year when he'd been drunk after hours at city hall.
Over the course of the past few months, Ford has had a difficult relationship with members of the media who have chronicled the many allegations and incidents involving the mayor.
The tension between Ford and the media was on display Wednesday, as he blew kisses through the window of his city hall office to the reporters gathered outside.
At the end of his work day, Ford headed home from city hall in his black Cadillac Escalade, with Pink Floyd’s Time blasting from the inside of the vehicle.
'Bloodbath' election lies ahead
Ford is three years into his four-year term as mayor. On Tuesday, he said it will be up to voters to decide if he will hold on to his job in the next election.
The mayor recently predicted that the coming election campaign will be "a bloodbath."
Even if Ford continues to ignore calls to take a leave, some councillors say they will do what they can to ensure that city business carries on without his leadership.
Coun. Karen Stintz, who has declared her intention to run for mayor in next year’s municipal election, said that Ford isn’t going away, which means councillors have to focus on city business.
"We have all that we need to do at council to pass our agenda, to pass our budgets, and I think really what we really need to do is bring calm to the city," Stintz said.
Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong has prepared a motion that calls on the mayor to take a leave.
Minnan-Wong told reporters that Ford’s about-face on his personal crack use was "unacceptable," and he called on fellow councillors to pressure the mayor.
"This council needs to act and make a very clear statement that this action is unacceptable and we believe that it is time for the mayor to step away from city hall for a time," Minnan-Wong said.
Coun. John Parker said that Minnan-Wong’s motion won’t "resolve the situation" involving the mayor, though he said life at city hall will move forward even with Ford-related distractions.
A separate motion has also been prepared by Coun. John Filion, which seeks to strip the mayor of his ability to hire and fire members of his executive committee.
On Wednesday, Coun. James Pasternak said he hoped it would be possible for the mayor to make a "dignified exit" in the days ahead, for which he is calling on the deputy mayor to help make happen.
"That’s what many councillors are talking about behind closed doors," he said.
Coun. Jaye Robinson, who supports the mayor take a leave of absence, is doubtful that Ford will yield to the pressure.
"I think that he is strong-minded, he always has been and I am not sure that’s ever going to change," said Robinson, who previously sat on Ford’s executive committee.
Kids talking about crack scandal
Stintz said the drug-related scandal surrounding the mayor is something that even the students at her children’s school are talking about.
"The topic of the schoolyard for my children is crack cocaine, and I think it’s very disappointing that it has come to this," she said.
Another councillor, Mary-Margaret McMahon, spoke to reporters alongside her own daughter, who was at city hall for an annual event in which Grade 9 students accompany their parents to work.
"You heard the admission yesterday and there is no reason [for Ford] to be here as the leader of the city," said McMahon, who called for the mayor to "step down immediately."
The councillor’s daughter also said the mayor should step down, citing the distractions he was causing for the city.