Toronto Mayor Rob Ford drew mixed reactions as he strolled down Lakeshore Boulevard during the annual Santa Claus parade in his home territory of Etobicoke, Ont. on Saturday.
Thousands turned out for the parade, and not even the latest allegations of drug use and gang ties could keep Ford away. The scandal-plagued mayor was shut out of last month's parade in Toronto.
“He thinks he’s so popular, that he’s a celebrity, but he’s a goof,” said parade spectator Jim Coopers. “He’s a buffoon and he needs to stay away from the kids.”
Stopping for the usual swarm of photos and to shake hands, Ford walked alongside the parade route tossing out candy canes to excited children.
“I’ve never seen a politician get a 100 per cent, but I’ll take 90 per cent,” said Ford. “I’m happy with 90 per cent of the support.”
Ford, Holyday meet again
A fresh wave of controversy hit this week as newly released police wiretap documents revealed police believed Ford may have tried to purchase the infamous crack video from alleged gang members by offering $5,000 and a car.
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All week, Ford has ducked in and out of his office without responding to reporters' questions about the latest revelations. On Friday he showed up unexpectedly at a news event to announce the city’s upcoming winter operation plans.
Several local residents including Terry Smith tried unsuccessfully to keep Ford away from the Etobicoke parade, and from the impressionable minds waiting for a glimpse of the man in red suit.
“A number of community members, myself included, called the organizing committee and said we don’t think it’s appropriate,” Smith said.
If not at least momentarily, however, Santa Claus took a backseat to Ford as he dashed between both sides of the street to greet the public.
“I heard he does cocaine…He does a lot of drugs and it’s all over the news,” said nine-year-old Joshua Lorenz.
A photo posted on Twitter showed newly elected MPP Doug Holyday posing with Ford.
Holyday left municipal politics, and his position as Ford's deputy mayor, in August after winning a byelection in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding.
With each public appearance, the same question continues to surface as to whether Toronto’s controversial mayor is welcome.
On Monday, Ford plans to attend the funeral for fallen police Const. John Zivcic who died after responding to an emergency call in Etobicoke last weekend.
Coun. Doug Ford said Friday that there was no reason for his brother not to be at the funeral.
“This is a police officer that served in Etobicoke, that put his life on the line for the people of Toronto,” Ford said. “One hundred per cent we’ll be there in support of our front-line police officers.”
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But even on his home turf in Toronto’s west end, the cracks are starting to show in what was once unwavering support.
“He shouldn’t be here. He especially shouldn’t be at the police officer’s funeral,” said one man.