Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Political allies call on Ford to step aside and get help

Mayor has vowed to stay put despite admitting smoking crack

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford leads a tour of city hall staff members; children on Take Our Kids to Work Day on Wednesday. He has refused calls to step down after admitting he smoked crack while in office.

CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford leads a tour of city hall staff members; children on Take Our Kids to Work Day on Wednesday. He has refused calls to step down after admitting he smoked crack while in office.

TORONTO -- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is ignoring calls from even his dwindling group of staunch supporters to step aside in the wake of an admission he has smoked crack cocaine during his time in office.

There has long been no love lost between the conservative mayor and left-leaning councillors during the first three years of his tenure at the helm of Canada's largest city.

But a day after Ford finally addressed more than five months of speculation head on, saying he had tried crack cocaine, likely in "one of my drunken stupors," councillors on the right and left appeared united in their desire to see the mayor take time to get help.

When the Toronto Star and U.S. website Gawker first reported in May that a video showed the mayor allegedly smoking crack, Ford denied the reports and his closest allies at city hall stood by him.

But now that Ford has admitted to using the drug and police have announced they have the video, those allies are joining politicians of all stripes in urging him to take a break and get help.

Deputy mayor Norm Kelly was tight-lipped about his meetings with the mayor during the past few days, but on Wednesday said he thought it was important to let the public know where he stood.

"I'm inviting him today, as I have previously, to take a pause with all its advantages, because it's the one option that looks after all of the issues that are on the table right now," Kelly told television station CP24.

'It frustrates me but there's nothing we can do. He's the only one that can make the decision on his own'

"He could protect his family, himself, health-wise, his political career and the vitality of his administration if he took a pause and regrouped and re-entered the fray later this year or early next year."

Ford is not following that advice, vowing in a contrite but defiant news conference hours after his surprise admission to stay on as mayor and run for re-election next year.

Ontario Opposition Leader Tim Hudak said Wednesday if Ford called him for advice he would tell him to put his family first and get healthy.

"If I were in that situation and it meant taking some time to do so, I would take that time," said the Progressive Conservative Leader.

Fervent city hall ally Coun. Frances Nunziata said Wednesday she and fellow supporters are urging him to take a leave of absence.

"I was hoping he would listen to us, as strong supporters," Nunziata said. "It frustrates me but there's nothing we can do. He's the only one that can make the decision on his own."

Right-leaning Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti stopped short of expressing full confidence in the mayor's ability to fulfil his mayoral duties.

"In light of the recent drug use admission from the mayor I must stress that there is no need to enter into a state of panic at city hall or across Toronto," he wrote in a statement.

"We have a very capable deputy mayor and dedicated councillors to carry forward with the fiscally responsible agenda we were elected to implement."

Mammoliti's statement went on to warn of a "left-wing coup."

Municipal law makes no provision for the mayor's forced removal from office unless he's convicted and jailed for a criminal offence, and the province has said it has no plans to amend the law.

"Obviously these are troubling allegations and the city has tools at its disposal should they choose to use them," said Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey.

"We have no plans to step in. There's an ongoing investigation."

The ongoing nature of the case is what is troubling some at city hall. As news of the mayor's confession and refusal to step aside made headlines around the world, some city councillors expressed skepticism at Ford's claim he has "nothing left to hide."

Denzil Minnan-Wong, who plans to table a non-binding motion asking Ford to take a temporary leave of absence, said he's "concerned" about the possibility city hall hasn't seen the end of revelations about the mayor.

"I don't know what it is but there's more information that will likely come out," he said. "I'm troubled by that, that it will create further controversy and hurt this city even further."

Ontario Superior Court Judge Ian Nordheimer is expected to make a decision early next week on whether remaining portions of a document that revealed Ford's ties and covert meetings with an alleged drug dealer can be released.

The police document was partially released last week as part of a pending drug case against Ford's friend Alexander Lisi. It revealed the target of the investigation was Ford and the video that allegedly shows him smoking crack cocaine.

It's alleged the video "relates" to a home believed to be a "crack house" and police believe a notorious photo of Ford was also taken outside the home. The photo shows Ford posing with Anthony Smith, who was later shot and killed, and two alleged gang members who were subsequently charged as part of Project Traveller, a drugs and weapons investigation.

Media outlets have been arguing in court for access to a Project Traveller document similar to what was released in the Lisi case.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 7, 2013 A9

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