TORONTO – Rob Ford is set to take part tonight in his first mayoral debate since returning to office from a two-month stint in rehab.
The controversial Toronto mayor, who got help for substance abuse issues, has said he can’t guarantee he won’t relapse but has asked supporters to trust him as he runs for another term.
Ford has also insisted that campaigning for the Oct. 27 municipal election won’t compromise his recovery.
A group of protesters calling themselves the Shirtless Horde has planned an anti-Ford demonstration outside the debate tonight.
The protesters — inspired by a shirtless jogger whose rant at Ford two weeks ago touched off a social media frenzy — say they wants to send the mayor a message that Toronto will no longer tolerate what they call his “racism, homophobia and misogyny.”
Ford recently raised eyebrows when he remained seated while city council gave a standing ovation to organizers of Toronto’s World Pride festival.
He did not answer questions from reporters outside his office about why he didn’t stand along with fellow councillors, but said he’s not homophobic.
Former NDP MP Olivia Chow, former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, city councillor Karen Stintz and David Soknacki, a former city budget chief, are among those vying to replace Ford.