Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford is refusing to stand down even after city councillors voted for him to take a break to deal with “personal issues”, which he admits include buying illegal drugs and smoking crack cocaine.
The non-binding vote by 37 to five came as opponents and former allies questioned whether the mayor was fit to lead Canada’s biggest city.
“I was elected to come down here and clean up the mess, and I know I have done that,” Ford told councillors during an hour-long grilling.
“You’re absolutely right I’ve made mistakes. Personal mistakes. But these mistakes was not in this council chamber, it was in my personal life. I sincerely apologise, I understand the embarrassment I have caused every member of this council. I understand the embarrassment I have caused every resident of the city,” he said.
The mayor, whose popularity in the suburbs helped get him elected on a promise to “end the gravy train” at city hall, denied being an addict and said he had zero tolerance for drugs.
“Have you purchased illegal drugs in the last two years?” council member Denzil Minnan-Wong asked him.
Ford paused for several seconds before replying sombrely: “Yes I have.”
Outside City Hall there was another protest similar to a previous demonstration last week, as hundreds of people called on the mayor to go.
A video published recently has also shown him in a foul-mouthed rant, apparently threatening to murder an unknown person, although the context is not clear.
Some see a funny side to such embarrassment. Bobble-headed “Robbie Bobbie” dolls resembling the mayor have been sold in Toronto for a Canadian charity.
However, an Ipsos-Reid poll conducted for several TV and radio stations showed that 76 percent of Toronto voters think Ford should step down or take a leave of absence, while only 24 percent agreed with Ford’s insistence on staying in his job.