No end in sight for Toronto mayor crack saga

TORONTO Wed Nov 6, 2013 4:59pm EST

1 of 4. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford gives children a tour of the office during 'Take Your Kids to Work Day' at City Hall in Toronto, November 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch

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TORONTO (Reuters) - Protesters left colorful chalk messages on walls and pavement outside Toronto City Hall on Wednesday urging Mayor Rob Ford to quit after his bombshell admission on Tuesday that he has smoked crack cocaine.

"I'm a taxpayer, and I would like you to resign - now," read one message targeted at the right-leaning mayor, who speaks often about saving taxpayers' money. Another said: "This wall would be a better mayor."

But Ford's chalk-wielding opponents may have a long wait. The mayor, who made his admission after months of dodging questions about reports that he had been caught on video smoking crack, has said he will not resign and plans to run again in next October's mayoral election.

"Rob Ford is a liar," is how the Globe and Mail, Canada's staid national paper, opened its editorial on Wednesday. And later: "A more honorable man would do the right thing. He'd resign. Rob Ford has shown time and again that he's not that guy."

A bloc of angry city councilors is now set to try to pass motions to curb Ford's already limited powers as a Toronto mayor, but it is very difficult to remove a sitting mayor.

One of Ford's policy aides quit on Tuesday and Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said he has suggested that Ford step down temporarily.

But Ford insists he has nothing left to hide, and over his years as a bombastic city councilor and now as a polarizing mayor, he has proven resistant to both public criticism and private advice.

The story of the crack video, the existence of which was first reported in May by media blog Gawker and then by the Toronto Star newspaper, has never been exclusively about whether Ford has used illegal drugs.

It has also raised questions about Ford's ties to alleged drug traffickers, and pitted him and his brother, also a member of Toronto city council, against the city's chief of police, who said last week the force had obtained a video "consistent" with the Gawker and Star accounts.

Ford's personal life started making headlines before he was elected mayor in 2010. But the Gawker and Star reports in May that they had seen a video that appeared to show Ford smoking crack transfixed Canada's largest city. The simmering crisis hit full boil after Police Bill Blair confirmed the video's existence on Thursday.


Toronto police said on Tuesday that the mayor's comments admitting that he had smoked crack had been forwarded to investigators.

The case has brought back memories of Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry, who was caught on camera smoking crack, jailed, and then released, after which he was re-elected.

Police documents released last week showed that Ford had been under surveillance for months as part of an investigation into the media reports about the video and other matters. More documents are expected soon, thanks to a series of court challenges by local media outlets.

The papers show Ford met repeatedly with a friend and occasional driver, Sandro Lisi, who was arrested recently and charged with drug trafficking. On October 31, Lisi was arrested again and charged with extortion, for actions police allege he took while trying to "retrieve a recording".

Then there is the photo of Ford published with Gawker's original post, which showed him with three young men. One of the men was shot and killed on March 28, and a second was injured in the same incident. Their attacker pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated assault in June.

The injured man was later arrested as part of a gang crackdown called Project Traveler, according to police documents. He was charged with trafficking cocaine and marijuana. The case has not yet been heard in court.

Toronto police have said Project Traveler uncovered criminal activity that fell outside that investigation's mandate, so the force launched a separate investigation, Project Brazen Two, led by a top city detective. That initiative lead to the extortion charge against Lisi.


A draft council motion may strip Ford of the power to appoint the deputy mayor and committee chairs, but council does not have the power to vote Ford out of his job over the crack allegations, and Toronto has no recall procedure of the sort that has become common in the United States.

Ford would become ineligible for office if he was convicted of a crime and jailed, said John Mascarin, a lawyer and municipal law expert at Aird & Berlis LLP. And he could be removed if he violated election or conflict of interest rules, or missed more than three consecutive council meetings.

The province of Ontario could pass a law to make it possible to remove Ford, but Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has given no indication she is considering this.

"My view is that the province will not ever do that in this case," Mascarin said. "It would be an unwarranted intrusion into municipal jurisdiction."

Ford has a hard core of support, especially in suburban districts where city services are meager and incomes lower than they are downtown. One woman interviewed by local news network CP24 after Tuesday's revelations called the mayor "delightfully human".

He takes pride in dealing with constituents one-on-one, publishing his phone number and sometimes visiting those who complain at their homes, with city bureaucrats in tow, and that has won him staunch fans. But he has struggled to maintain the support of council, which has final say over most city business.

A Forum Research poll, taken after Blair confirmed the existence of the video, put Ford's approval rating at 44 percent, up five points from a previous poll, although 60 percent said he should resign.

Another recent Forum poll showed Ford losing next October's mayoral election in a number of hypothetical races. The poll said he would lose against right-of-center Councilor Karen Stintz - who plans to run. It said he would also lose to Olivia Chow, a federal member of Parliament for the left-leaning New Democratic Party who said in July she is considering a run.

As part of his tough-on-crime agenda, Ford has railed loudly against gang violence and against drug users and decriminalization of drugs.

"Might as well give them a gun. Might as well let them shoot themselves. What are they going to do to our families?" he said in a video clip that circulated on Twitter on Tuesday.

(Editing by Janet Guttsman; and Peter Galloway)

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Comments (7)
Dr_Steve wrote:
I believe him. He’s too fat to be a crack addict.

Nov 05, 2013 8:59pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Bookfan wrote:
The job is like Governor of Texas, any idiot in a suit can do it. That said, if he’d share the secret to his obesity he might make some amends helping other crackheads put on weight.

Nov 05, 2013 9:53pm EST  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:
But no one would say boo if the mayor drank a few martini’s or a few beers at lunch at a bar on weekends or even at his office – would they?

The issue is their legality and not what drugs do or make you feel, isn’t it?

It would be the same controversy, wouldn’t it, if the mayor had been drinking in a dry state. Do any of them exist anywhere in the US?

This is not an argument made for prohibition or even for stricter drug control, actually, just against the sort of inane and faux sophisticated comments the two are making above. Did either of you two even stretch a neuron before commenting? Alcohol is an addictive substance too, remember and you can get very messed up on it to the point of the blind staggers, vomiting and even unconsciousness. That never seems to be the case with many recreational drugs unless you imbibe so deeply you are risking severe overdose. Cocaine used to be the drug of choice for Wall Street traders I once heard because it helped to speed them up? Coffee is considered a sinful stimulant by Mormons and other religious traditions but not with others. One can also severely overdoes on alcohol but the body tends to reject it, usually, but not always. I don’t know if crack can be taken in such large doses in brings about unconsciousness? And mixtures of drugs like “speedballs” can. I’ve smoked cocaine three times in my life at 20 year intervals and still haven’t the foggiest idea what it is supposed to make you feel. I have had crack once and it only made me feel slightly warm for a few seconds. I can’t afford the high cost of these two so I like grass to keep me relaxed and I really don’t like to drink heavily and i smoke grass as lightly as possible so as to save money make it last longer and not developer too high a tolerance for it. It makes me feel too wobbly and even nauseous if I go too fast or have too much. I heard about the potential lethality of speedballs from the movie “Eye’s Wide Shut” but can’t recall what the mix of drugs was – cocaine and heroin? I won’t drive into a brick wall either.

BTW – anyone following this thread by bookmark link might also notice that the Net has been cast again with this article while the same article with over 14 comments has been moved and may only be accessible through the previous bookmark. Why does Reuters do this? And they have done it for several articles I was following over the years. If a writer wants to make a point, should he resubmit each time the comment thread is scrubbed? I am submitting this comment because it is a more practical look at the same issue than my previous comment and why repeat oneself?.

BTW – Even editors can be weasels, in fact it might be part of the job description?

The controversy about illegal drug use is somewhat insincere or even foolish. We drive automobiles and car accidents are still common enough. It may still be the case that railroads still kill people and it was even accepted many decades ago that high speed rail and other lines would see a fatality on the tracks with each trip. Subways still have people who either commit suicide or accidentally fall into the well. But unlike any of them – illegal drugs make an instant black market.

But the supreme inconsistency of the controversy is that people can own firearms which do fall into the wrong hands or are used in fits of rage and the collateral damage from excesses in the use of firearms doesn’t seem to get as many people eager to outlaw them. In fact, it seems to make people more eager to own them.

I met a young woman recently who had been introduced to cocaine and became addicted, was advised by her boyfriend to switch to heroin as less dangerous (HUH?) and then was treated with methadone to break from the heroin. To withdrawal from methodone she endured three months of near insane withdrawal where she had hot flashes and needed to take repeated cold showers to deal with the flashes and returns to normal temperature, all the while she was under police custody because she could not control herself effectively. It took a toll on her because she looks drawn. That’s all I have to know because the bill for the experience looks way the hell too steep for the potential pleasure. She thought methadone was the far more dangerous drug actually and a doctor I mentioned it to said many people are dying from it too.

The Franklin Pierce Homestead is on the other side of the town I live in and I was recently told by one of the people in the Historical Society that there was a tavern in the house because the place sits on a cross roads and the Pierce Family kept a hostel for the area travelers. That is very likely why Franklin became interested in politics. When the folks who gathered there made a toast they would down 14 shots at a time. I have smoked grass for nearly 43 years and 14 shots would have me on the floor in convulsions perhaps or passed out? They probably went out afterward and built a stone wall and if they did it in the dead of winter – the house was cold and they probably burned it off just trying to get home and they’d have wanted a few more shots just to keep their body temperature up?

Nov 06, 2013 12:51am EST  --  Report as abuse
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