A debate about a proposed downtown casino is supposed to take centre stage at Toronto City Hall on Tuesday, but it seems a safe bet that a still-unseen video of Mayor Rob Ford will continue to be a topic of conversation.
The Toronto Star and the U.S.-based gossip website Gawker have both reported seeing a video that allegedly shows Ford smoking what appears to be a crack pipe. Both media outlets say that someone has been shopping the video, seeking payment in exchange for its release.
Ford has called the allegations untrue and "ridiculous," though he has not provided further comment on those reports.
CBC News has not seen the video and has not been able to validate any of the claims being made.
One way or another, city councillors Mike Del Grande and Peter Milczyn told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Tuesday, Ford should directly address the allegations as soon as possible so they can continue with city hall matters.
Del Grande said the allegations were "disturbing," and added that he has never seen any indication that the mayor could have issues with substance abuse.
"That's not to say that's the litmus test, but I can only comment from what I know and what I see," he said.
Whether or not the allegations are true, Milczyn said, Ford's initial brief statement to the media wasn't nearly enough to put the matter to rest.
"He needs to come out and respond to it directly, address the people of Toronto and give his version of the story," Milczyn said. "Either he's adamant that it's untrue or he has another explanation."
If the allegations are true, he said, Ford "needs to come clean with Toronto residents or himself."
'He's told me that there's no such video'
Councillors who spoke to CBC News on Monday said they hoped that council would keep its focus on the casino debate Tuesday. But they acknowledged there is pressure on the mayor to provide more substantive comment on the allegations.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said he expected the mayor would be present for the debate at city hall.
"He'll show up and you know, I guess the media will have some questions for him and some way or another, he's going to have to answer some of these questions and we'll just see what happens," Holyday said.
"He's told me that there's no such video, that he's not used crack cocaine and I've tried my best to say that there's really no proof that he has."
Holyday said that if a video does come to light, "we can check this matter out further."
Coun. Paula Fletcher heard about the allegations while away on vacation. She missed a tumultuous period in which the mayor also came forward and declared the casino all but dead.
"I thought I could take a few days off and everything would be calm, but nothing was calm during the last week," Fletcher said.
Last week, Ford had announced that he had cancelled the casino debate, but a majority of councillors then used a petition to ensure it went forward as scheduled.
Fletcher said that council is required to weigh in on the casino issue, which is why Tuesday’s debate is so important.
"Provincial legislation requires our city council to say yes or not to host a casino. That’s what’s required of us legislatively and we’re going to do that tomorrow," she said.
"I believe that there will not be a casino anywhere in Toronto’s waterfront after tomorrow and the provincial government will be told we do not consent to that."
Fletcher said she hoped that councillors would keep their eye on the ball at the debate, even if they had questions for the mayor about the allegations that the Star and Gawker have made.
"I'm hoping that we can focus on the casino tomorrow. I do think it is up to the mayor, he’s got to tell people what he’s been doing or not doing. That is up to him to do that," she said.
"But I wouldn’t be surprised if the police and others were investigating some of these allegations."
On Twitter, Coun. James Pasternak called on the mayor to provide more information on Tuesday:
A clear statement by the mayor at the City Council meeting Tuesday about recent allegations is essential. #topoli— James Pasternak (@JamesPasternak) May 20, 2013
Ford will turn 44 later this month. He was elected as Toronto's mayor in October 2010 and sworn in later that year.
Prior to being elected mayor, Ford served as a city councillor in Etobicoke, the Toronto suburb where he lives with his family.