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Firestorm rages despite Ford's repeated apology

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Surrounded by media, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford  arrives to talk on his weekly radio show Sunday.

MARK BLINCH / THE CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Surrounded by media, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford arrives to talk on his weekly radio show Sunday.

TORONTO -- Canada's largest city remained divided over its embattled mayor Monday after a public apology from Rob Ford failed to quell the controversy over an alleged crack video.

While some saw his words as the push needed to move past a long drug scandal, others said little had changed for Toronto.

After first saying he was sorry on his weekend radio show, the mayor took to the airwaves Monday morning to repeat his apology for public drunkenness and texting while driving.

As he had before, however, Ford dodged questions about the video that allegedly appears to show him smoking crack cocaine.

"I'm not an alcoholic, I'm not a drug addict," a defiant Ford said on AM640, while challenging any member of his government to leave if they couldn't work with him. "Anybody who wants to go, go. I'll be running the ship, even if it's by myself. I'll be serving the city."

Ford has been under fire for months ever since two media outlets reported the existence of the alleged video. Tensions boiled over last week when Toronto's police chief said authorities had recovered a video with images of Ford that were consistent with what news outlets had reported.

Ford has repeatedly said he does not use crack cocaine and his lawyer has questioned how anyone could know what substance is shown on the video.

Ford has also said police should release the controversial clip. Police say it's up to the courts to decide whether evidence is released to the public.

The mayor's show of contrition seemed carefully crafted to "control the message" by "pushing all the emotional buttons," said Jill Scott, a professor at Queen's University who researches the social dynamics of conflict.

"What we often find though with political apologies is that there is a naming of some sort of wrongdoing and then there are a variety of measures that are used to mitigate the responsibility -- excuse, justification, explanation, some form of blaming others," she said.

"In his case, he didn't have to go into that excuse, denial, blame, justification, because he didn't say what it was that he'd done wrong. He went immediately into those usual caveats of 'I love this city'... and not acknowledging that he has lost credibility," she added.

"Not admitting means that no one can pin it on him, he's not going to have to wear it in that same kind of way, and yet he's hoping to win over some people by the sincerity or the emotional value of his sense of regret, even though he's not going to tell us what he regrets."

For some Toronto residents, Ford's latest statements did little to change their views.

"Rob Ford's 'apology' sounds to me like just blowing smoke. Never mind what kind of smoke," one person said on Twitter.

"How many lies must Rob Ford be caught in before we can officially declare him to be a liar?" tweeted another.

And Ford's supporters continued their staunch defence of the mayor.

"Despite whatever Mayor Rob Ford has done in his personal life, he is still a good mayor and people should leave him alone," tweeted one woman. "The end result is that he is saving taxpayers' money," said another.

Toronto's deputy mayor said Ford's "blanket apology" and an acknowledgment his personal lifestyle is affecting the city is a good first step. "It may not be the one that everyone had anticipated but it was enough," Coun. Norm Kelly said of Ford's apology. "I'll hold him to his commitment, and hopefully time will prove that he's made the right decision."

For others, however, Ford's words have failed to impress.

"I don't think it was adequate. It didn't address what most people were very concerned about, which were the drug allegations," said Coun. Gloria Lindsay Luby.

"What I really would like to hear is him take a leave of absence. Get over this."

Meanwhile, the chairman of Toronto's budget committee, who works closely with Ford, said the city has to push past the scandal.

"I see his message as one that will allow us to coalesce and keep our minds on the work that needs to be done for the city," Coun. Frank Di Giorgio said. "I believe that Mayor Ford, in his eyes, made an apology that I think was sincere."

The controversy is likely to continue as many unanswered questions remain about the video.

Toronto police have said that the video they recovered will be evidence in the case against Alexander Lisi -- a friend and sometimes driver for the mayor. Police allege Lisi tried to get his hands on the video and have charged him with extortion.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 5, 2013 A5

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