TORONTO – As the scandal surrounding the embattled mayor of Canada’s largest city continues to unfold, those who work alongside him are determined to steer Toronto away from the spiralling crisis.
Rob Ford has drawn much attention over the past six months after media outlets reported the existence of a video that appears to show the mayor smoking crack cocaine and making racist and homophobic slurs.
Tensions boiled over when Toronto’s police chief announced last week that authorities found a video which appears to be the one “previously reported in the press”— a clip Ford has suggested does not exist.
Ford apologized on his weekly radio show Sunday for being “inebriated” in public and texting while driving but was more vague regarding the video.
He said because he hasn’t seen what police have he can’t explain the images until he does.
Ford did admit he’s made mistakes and promised to make changes in his personal life.
City politicians have had to weave their way past reporters and cameras routinely lining the hallway outside the mayor’s office, accustom themselves to Ford trending on social media for undesirable reasons and deal with Toronto making global headlines due to his personal issues.
Ford says he wants to continue as mayor but no matter how he conducts himself in the future, many said they firmly believe that the city’s government will by no means ground to a halt.
“As much as it’s difficult, I think we are committed to ensuring that the business of the city continues,” said Coun. Gary Crawford, who serves on Ford’s executive committee.
“Even with what is happening, we need to continue that. That is our responsibility.”
Others were more candid in discussing the toll that the long-running imbroglio has taken on the city.
“The fact is that this is getting spread globally. It’s just really bad,” said Coun. Gloria Lindsay Luby, who pointed to a transit authority in New York deciding not to invite Toronto to discussions as just one example of the scandal’s effect.
“The larger impact is going to be when committees meet and council meets. It just becomes a little more tortuous.”
The roiling drama over Ford’s troubles have also affected the atmosphere at city hall.
“It’s weighing very heavy on everyone,” said Coun. Joe Mihevc, who said many employees were “dispirited” at the kind of attention the Ford scandal was drawing to the city.
Mihevc added, however, that municipal employees were “doing their best” to carry on with their jobs, despite the fracas.
“The mayor, with his woes and almost with him messing up so deeply, still has not damaged our great brand yet,” he said. “City hall is bigger than the mayor.”
At least one observer agreed.
“In terms of the actual running of the city, the city can go along without a mayor,” said Andrew Sancton, a Western University political science professor specializing in municipal government.
The city’s administration and delivery of municipal services continue uninterrupted, said Sancton, although making any sort of political decisions gets harder.
“It’s all the political leadership and the development of new proposals, new policies, that’s where the mayor becomes crucial,” he said.
“The mayor is inevitably a focal point. He is the person that is expected to kind of marshal the votes.”
While a number of people — politicians and residents — have called for Ford to step down, the mayor has said he has “no reason to resign.”