Rob Ford fired chief of staff for telling mayor to 'get help'

CBC News has learned the details of what precipitated the firing of Mark Towhey as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's chief of staff — and it was advice from Towhey that Ford needs to 'get help.'

'Get help' plea gets chief fired

10 years ago
Duration 3:35
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's chief of staff was fired because, according to a source, he told Ford to 'go away and get help'

Mark Towhey was fired as Mayor Rob Ford's chief of staff because he told Ford to "go away and get help," a source close to the mayor's office has told CBC News.

Towhey was unceremoniously dumped from his job Thursday in the midst of a scandal that has shaken Toronto municipal politics — with the city's colourful mayor caught in the midst of allegations that he was recorded smoking crack cocaine.

The story broke last week and shortly after Towhey faced down the mayor telling him he needed help.

"There's nothing more I can do for you," the source quoted Towhey as telling Ford. The chief of staff then told Ford to "go away and get help."

On May 17, the day after the U.S. gossip website Gawker and the Toronto Star both reported the existence of a recording of the mayor smoking something that appears to be crack cocaine, Ford made a public appearance at an annual ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square, where Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) held a flag raising ceremony to recognize the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

At the end of the ceremony Ford left quickly and just a few minutes later was closeted in a room with his top advisers to discuss the cocaine scandal.

Towhey is said to have gathered together the inner circle and presented Ford with options.

The source said Ford was presented with three options, though exactly what those options were is not known.

But when it became clear the meeting "was not going anywhere," Towhey cleared the room and presented the mayor with one option and told him for the third time, "You have a problem. Go away and fix it."

The source said Ford repeatedly laughed off suggestions that he enter rehab.

When the others returned to the room Towhey told them the mayor had chosen the fourth option — to do nothing.

The situation within the mayor's office came to a head on Wednesday when it was learned Ford had been dumped from his cherished job as head coach of the Don Bosco Eagles — a senior high school football team. 

According to the source, Ford wanted to have the players and coaches over to his house for a get-together. 

Towhey, the source said, told staff not to get involved in organizing any such party and told Ford not to drag others into the imbroglio. 

The two men argued over the mayor going to rehab — and Ford fired Towhey on Wednesday night, the source said. On Thursday he confirmed the firing to his face at city hall.

Towhey "wasn't fired over a party," he was fired because he told the mayor he needs to go away and get help, the source said.

The mayor's office has refused comment. 

Towhey himself told reporters on Thursday that he wouldn't talk about the advice he had given the mayor or the circumstances leading up to the firing.


Jamie Strashin is a native Torontonian whose latest stop is the CBC Sports department. Before, he spent 15 years covering everything from city hall to courts and breaking news as a reporter for CBC News. He has also worked in Brandon, Man., and Calgary. Follow him on Twitter @StrashinCBC