TORONTO – Rob Ford is clinging to his job despite mounting pressure for him to step down following a week of shocking confessions of drug use, drunken stupors and erratic behaviour, though people close to him said the mayor is considering help.
Ford has steadfastly refused to step down, even temporarily, though as the week went on his vows became less angry and more weary.
In light of the startling admission that he smoked crack cocaine during one of his “drunken stupors”, both friends and foes called on the mayor to take time off and seek professional help.
His lawyer suggested Friday that Ford hasn’t completely ruled out rehab. The mayor is considering his options and treatment is one of them, Dennis Morris said, though he cautioned that Ford can be unpredictable.
The embattled 44-year-old mayor looked drained as he left city hall Friday, begging the horde of reporters camped outside his office for privacy.
“I’m dealing with a very serious personal issue right now,” he said. “Can you please just give me that time?”
Ford’s spokesman said the personal issue is not related to the ongoing scandal.
Hours after the mayor left city hall for the weekend, CBC’s “The Fifth Estate” and CityNews both reported that a man named Mohamed Farah is the person who had tried to broker the sale of the so-called crack video, which appeared to show Ford smoking crack cocaine.
Farah was arrested and charged in Project Traveller, a weapons and drugs investigation that also nabbed two men pictured in a notorious photo with the mayor.
Also Friday, the mayor lost his radio pulpit with an announcement by NewsTalk1010 that he and his brother would no longer host their weekly show.
It was during the show last Sunday that Ford apologized for making a drunken spectacle of himself in public, but he did not address allegations of drug use.
Ford changed his tune in a confession Tuesday that appeared off-the-cuff, then apologized later in the day.
The mayor was forced to apologize yet again two days later, when a new video surfaced showing Ford spewing profanities and threatening to murder someone.
Ford said he was “extremely, extremely inebriated” and embarrassed, but refused to identify the target of, or reason for, his rage.
Meanwhile, politicians of all stripes, including his staunchest city council supporters, are calling for him to take a break to take care of his health.
In Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Premier Kathleen Wynne on Friday said she was watching the situation “very closely.”
“It’s extremely important to me that the city of Toronto council be able to function, and that’s what we’re paying close attention to,” Wynne said.
“The deputy mayor is very convinced that city council can function (so) we need to let that roll out.”
At the same time, Wynne urged Ford to do what’s best for him and his family.
“As a human being, as a mother, as a sister, I hope that the mayor is listening to the people around him, who love him, who care about him, and that he is taking their advice.”
Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, a member of Ford’s executive committee, has said he would ask council to petition the province to oust the mayor if he doesn’t take a leave of absence.
Ford’s strongest backer, his brother Coun. Doug Ford, said on Friday his brother needs to take a break.
“If Rob goes on a little vacation, a week or two weeks, comes back, Rob loses 50, 60 pounds, stays on the straight and narrow because he’s a good, good man and he’s an honest man, it would be tough to beat Rob Ford,” the councillor told AM640.
The mayor’s surprising week was preceded by an announcement last Thursday that police had seized the “crack” video.
The video is the subject of a court application by lawyers for a man seen in a photo with Ford.
The mayor is seen posing in the photo with Anthony Smith, who was later shot and killed, as well as Mohammad Khattak and another man, who have both been charged as alleged gang members in Project Traveller.
Lawyers for Khattak were in court Friday seeking access to the video, arguing their client’s reputation is being harmed by being associated with it.
Ontario Superior Court Judge Ian Nordheimer expressed concerns that the lawyers were trying to “leap frog” the system by applying for a video that would come out in the normal court disclosure process anyway.
But Crown attorney Grace Hession David said in court Friday, to the surprise of Khattak’s lawyers, that she viewed the video Thursday night at police headquarters, where it is being analyzed to determine when it was recorded and when it was deleted.
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair has said the video was a digital file that had originally been deleted from a laptop seized as part of Project Traveller.
It’s “totally irrelevant” to Khattak’s case, so it would not come out in the course of his criminal case, David said.
“Mr. Khattak is not on the video, neither is his voice.”
David also revealed that the laptop on which the video was found did not belong to Khattak.
Nordheimer hasn’t yet made a decision, but he ordered the case to return Tuesday, and he told the Crown to bring the video with her.
The same judge is also expected, as early as Tuesday, to decide whether remaining parts of a document that shed light on Ford’s relationship with an alleged drug dealer – who’s also his friend – can be released.
Lawyers for the media are also expected to argue in the coming weeks that wiretap information from the Project Traveller investigation should be made public.
– with files from Keith Leslie.