TORONTO – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford began a leave of absence Thursday to seek treatment after a report surfaced about a second video of him apparently smoking crack cocaine, but he did not abandon his bid to seek a second term as mayor of Canada’s largest city.
One of his campaign rivals and other Toronto politicians demanded he resign. But in a statement Wednesday, Ford said only that he would take leave for an unspecified amount of time from both his mayoral post and his campaign for re-election. Ford has for months been the subject of a drug-related police investigation, but he has not been charged with any crime. Toronto police said they were looking into the new video, which was reported by the Globe and Mail newspaper.
The mayor gave no details on what type of treatment he will seek, though his mother and lawyer said he intended to enter rehab. Ford left his west-end Toronto home in a car Thursday morning but he did not respond to reporters’ questions and it was unclear where he was going. Earlier, Ford’s nephew was seen leaving the home with a suitcase.
“I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence. I have struggled with this for some time,” Ford said in statement late Wednesday. “I have tried to deal with these issues by myself over the past year. I know that I need professional help and I am now 100% committed to getting myself right.”
The Globe and Mail newspaper said it has viewed a second video of Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine in his sister’s basement. The national newspaper said two Globe reporters viewed the video from a self-professed drug dealer showing Ford taking a drag from a pipe early Saturday morning.
The video is part “of a package of three videos the dealer said was surreptitiously filmed around 1:15 a.m., and which he says he is now selling for ‘at least six figures,’” the paper reported.
In his statement, Ford did not address the reported video or make any reference to crack cocaine.
News reports of an earlier video of Ford apparently smoking crack first surfaced last May. The mayor denied the existence of that video for months but after police said they had obtained it, Ford acknowledged that he smoked crack in a “drunken stupor.” He rebuffed intense pressure to resign and launched his re-election bid earlier this year. The first video has never been released to the public.
Ford’s lawyer, Dennis Morris, told The Associated Press that he spoke to Ford Wednesday and the mayor “acknowledges he has a substance abuse problem and he wants to do something about it.”
Morris said Ford told him it was his intention to enter rehab but could not offer more details. “Today a person could say they are going to do this. And tomorrow they could change their mind. Let’s hope that’s not the case,” Morris said.
The mayor’s mother, Diane Ford, told reporters Thursday that her son would enter rehab. “I had no idea it was as serious as it was but he doesn’t live with me so I don’t know what he does every minute of every day.”
His brother Doug Ford, who is a Toronto City Councilor, addressed reporters later but did not say where his brother was going or for how long.
“Rob was very emotional when he told me the hardest thing about this is he knows he let people down. He let his family down, he let his friends down, he let his colleagues down, he let his supporters down and the people of Toronto,” said Doug Ford, who is also the mayor’s campaign manager.
“As an older brother I’m relieved that Rob has faced his problems,” he added.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who assumed many of the powers that were stripped from Ford by the Toronto City Council last year, said he did not know where Ford was.
In a letter to the city clerk indicating he would take a leave of absence, Ford said only that he will provide updates on his status, according to Jackie DeSouza, a spokeswoman for the City of Toronto.
Ford is the target of an ongoing drug-related investigation but has not been charged. His friend and former driver Alexander Lisi is facing extortion charges over alleged attempts to retrieve the first crack video from an alleged gang member. Recently released police documents note that meetings between Ford and Lisi are “indicative to that of drug trafficking” and that the two have been in constant contact during the investigation.
Ford has careened from one scandal to another, including public drunkenness and an appearance in another video that showed him threatening “murder” in an incoherent rant. Toronto’s city council has stripped him of most of his powers.
In in his statement Wednesday, Ford asked for continued support. “I love the people of Toronto, I love being your mayor and I hope you will continue to stand by me,” he said.
But Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said the latest developments reinforced his belief that Ford had no chance of re-election and was likely to withdraw from the race.
“This will peel away a few more voters,” Wiseman said. “People do not like being lied to, repeatedly, to their faces.”
Also Wednesday, The Toronto Sun said that it had obtained an audio recording of Ford making offensive remarks about other politicians at a bar on Monday night, including his election rival Karen Stintz.
“Rob Ford’s comments are gross,” Stintz said. “Toronto is tired of being gripped in this sad, sad mess.”
Stintz did not call on Ford to resign, saying it’s up to the people to decide. But another candidate in the Oct. 27 race, John Tory, said Ford should step down “for the good of the city.”
City Councilor Janet Davis called Ford selfish for seeking re-election and said he’s holding the city hostage. “We are now on episode 13 of the saga of Rob Ford trying to make up for his behavior. The people should not have to be dragged through another episode,” Davis said.
Another councilor, John Parker, said Ford should “go and never come back. Things have gone too far.”
Wiseman contended that constant media attention has created a false impression that the mayor’s political support remains strong.
“Because he’s such a fascinating individual, he’s a perfect storm for the media, and for people who are taken with celebrities,” Wiseman said. “But the people who want selfies with him are looking for entertainment. Those are not people who are going to go door to door for him.”