TORONTO – Toronto’s embattled mayor says he’s turning his life around, staying off alcohol and trying to lose weight — all while threatening legal action against city council for stripping him of most of his powers.
In a series of interviews with Canadian and American television networks Rob Ford promised people will see a positive change in him in the near future.
He told CBC News “The National” in an interview with host Peter Mansbridge Monday night that he has had a “come to Jesus moment” brought on by the “belittling” he has endured lately.
The interview capped a day which saw Ford remain defiant despite a series of unprecedented votes in city council which reduced his powers to ribbon cutting.
Ford’s criminal lawyer, Dennis Morris, said the mayor is spending up to two hours a day exercising, has revamped his diet and is receiving “professional support” including care from a medical doctor.
“It isn’t just going to the gym and having a few shakes, he’s addressing a substance abuse problem, and I don’t think you have to ask too many questions to realize it’s probably alcohol,” Morris told The Canadian Press.
Though the mayor has denied being addicted to drugs or alcohol, the allegations laid out in police documents are “part and parcel of indicia of having a substance abuse challenge,” Morris said.
In an interview broadcast this morning on NBC’s “Today,” Ford was combative under questioning by host Matt Lauer, who asked him about his admitted binge drinking.
Lauer asked Ford if he’d be able to handle a terror attack or disaster in the city if he’d been out on a binge the night before — but Ford said that could happen to anyone.
“I’m very fortunate that hasn’t happened. It’s very few isolated incidents that it’s happened,” Ford replied.
“That could happen with anybody at any time.”
In Monday’s vote, councillors slashed Ford’s mayoral budget and handed many of his duties and staff to the city’s deputy mayor, Norm Kelly.
Kelly told reporters Tuesday he would carry on with the mayor’s fiscally conservative agenda, but adopt a “more co-operative” approach that is “more sensitive to the arguments and positions of others.”
Another councillor said the votes went to great lengths “to isolate the mayor and limit the damage” he can do to the city.
“Ford continues to put himself ahead of the best interests of the city,” Coun. Joe Mihevc said Tuesday.
“He has brought shame and embarrassment to the city, dishonour to the office of mayor, and has a record of failed leadership.”
Mihevc also said it’s time for council to get back to “boring.”
Ford called Monday’s votes a “coup d’etat” and a declaration of war, comparing what happened to him to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991.
Ford’s lawyer, George Rust-D’Eye, said he might seek an injunction against council’s decisions but was still waiting for instructions.
City staff said they believed their actions, which are essentially in force until the next municipal election in October 2014, would withstand legal scrutiny.
Ford admitted last week to buying illegal drugs while in office, then sparked outrage by making a crude sexual comment on live television.
He has steadfastly refused to take a leave or resign since reports surfaced in May of a video that appeared to show him smoking crack cocaine.
Police said they had recovered the video but have refused to release it.