Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ford ducks crack scandal; Trudeau, Wynne do not

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TORONTO -- Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford stayed silent for a fourth day Tuesday amid allegations a drug dealer had recorded him on a cellphone video smoking crack cocaine and making homophobic and racist comments.

As the scandal, which has garnered international attention, swirled around the mayor, others were less reticent about weighing in.

In Ottawa, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau decried Ford's alleged use of an anti-gay slur against him.

"I just hope the words he is alleged to have used are not true," Trudeau said.

"It's a sentiment that a huge number of Canadians -- and not just Canadians of the LGBTQ community -- find reprehensible and unacceptable."

On Thursday, the U.S.-based website Gawker and the Toronto Star separately reported a crack dealer was shopping around a cellphone video that appeared to show Ford smoking crack.

The publications said their staff had viewed the footage and taken notes about its contents but neither had purchased the video.

Despite calls from allies and rivals to address the allegations more thoroughly than he did last week, Ford ignored a crush of reporters waiting outside his city hall office Tuesday morning.

Amid rumours about whether he would make a public comment, the mayor did address council for six minutes on a proposal for a city casino.

However, he avoided the media after the vote as he returned to his office. He eluded reporters again when he ducked out of his office and drove out of city hall mid-afternoon.

At the provincial legislature, Premier Kathleen Wynne, who initially said the controversy was a local matter, expressed concern over the ongoing firestorm surrounding the mayor.

"It's concerning to me if there are issues, whether they're personal issues, that get in the way of a government, a municipal government, being able to work in the best interest of the city," Wynne said when pressed.

Ford's only comment so far came on Friday, when he briefly described the allegations as "ridiculous" and slammed the Toronto Star report as a smear job.

Ford's lawyer, Dennis Morris, has called the reports "false and defamatory" but told The Canadian Press on Sunday he had not received any instructions about launching legal action. The matter was in "pause" until it's known whether the video would become public, Morris said.

Gawker and the Star reported on Thursday that the video was shown to them by a drug dealer who had been trying to sell it for a six-figure sum. Gawker has been trying to crowdsource $200,000 to buy and publicly post the footage. By Tuesday afternoon, it had raised more than $93,000.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 22, 2013 A9

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