Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who admitted last year he’d smoked crack cocaine, is taking a leave of absence to seek help for substance abuse following reports of a new video that allegedly shows him smoking the drug again.
“I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence,” Ford, 44, said in a statement yesterday. “After taking some time to think about my own well-being, how to best serve the people of Toronto and what is in the best interests of my family, I have decided to take a leave from campaigning and from my duties as mayor to seek immediate help.”
Ford said he plans to get professional treatment and is “100 percent” committed to getting himself right. He still intends to be on the ballot for re-election in Canada’s biggest city in October, his lawyer Dennis Morris said in an interview broadcast on CP24 television yesterday. Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told reporters he is taking over Ford’s responsibilities.
The decision to step away from the campaign comes after the Globe and Mail reported yesterday it has seen a video in which the mayor appears to be smoking from a crack-cocaine pipe.
A self-described drug dealer secretly taped Ford allegedly smoking crack, the Globe and Mail said. Two reporters viewed a video of Ford taking a drag from a long copper-colored pipe and exhaling a cloud of smoke, the newspaper said.
The footage is part of a package of three videos the drug dealer said was filmed April 26 at about 1:15 a.m. in Ford’s sister’s basement, and which he says he is now trying to sell, according to the newspaper’s website.
The Toronto Sun, meanwhile, obtained a new audio recording of Ford ranting and swearing in a Toronto-area bar, the newspaper reported yesterday. The Sun said Ford complained about his wife Renata and made “lewd” comments about mayoral candidate Karen Stintz.
Ford also had a run-in with Canadian pop music star Justin Bieber last month during a night of heavy drinking at a nightclub, The Toronto Star reported today. The 20-year-old star angered Ford by asking him if he had brought crack to the party, the Star reported.
Toronto city councilors and his competitors in the mayoralty race were swift to react last night.
“I am deeply disappointed by these revelations,” John Tory, a mayoral candidate, said on CP24 television last night. “For the good of the city, I call on Mayor Ford to resign.”
“The mayor’s attitude towards women comes out when he is in the throes of substance abuse,” Councilor Shelley Carroll said on the same station.
Reports first surfaced a year ago that the mayor had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine. Since then, Ford admitted using the drug in a “drunken stupor,” with his antics providing regular fodder for late-night comedy shows.
“It’s obvious that he is a sick man,” Olivia Chow, a former federal legislator who is also running for mayor, said at a press conference today. “Mr. Ford needs to pack up his circus.”
Toronto Police “have not seen the video,” spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said on Twitter today. “Investigators would be interested in reviewing any new information related to their ongoing investigation.”
Ford had been part of a police investigation that started last May when the Toronto Star and other media reported seeing a video that appeared to show Ford inhaling from a glass pipe. Ford initially denied the video existed and said he wasn’t a crack addict.
Ford offered C$5,000 ($4,561) and a car to a gang member for the video, according to documents based on wiretaps of conversations between alleged gang members and filed in court by police as part of a drug investigation. In other documents, former staff members also said Ford sexually propositioned a female staff member and guzzled a 12-ounce bottle of vodka in two minutes before driving off in his car.
Ford denied propositioning the woman. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Throughout the probe and many apologies, Ford refused to step down. When Toronto’s city council voted to take away most of his budget and special powers, he compared himself to Kuwait being invaded by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
“You think American-style politics is nasty? You guys have just attacked Kuwait,” Ford told city council. “This is going to be outright war in the next election.”
The mayor then swore off alcohol and said he began going to the gym to lose weight.
Kelly told reporters today he has taken over all of Ford’s responsibilities and that his title remains “Deputy Mayor.” He said he hopes Ford will be able to return to city council after his treatment.
Ford would forfeit his position as mayor if he misses three consecutive monthly city meetings without getting approval from the rest of the council, Joseph Pennachetti, Toronto’s city manager, said at the press conference with Kelly.
Ford was the first candidate to sign up for October’s election and has been campaigning against Chow; Tory, the former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party; and Stintz, allegedly the subject of Ford’s lewd sexual comments in the audio file obtained by the Sun.
“He knows he let people down,” said Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, a city councilor and one of his staunchest supporters.
“He let his family down,” Doug Ford said during a press conference. “He let his friends down. He let his colleagues down. He let his supporters down and the people of Toronto.”