TORONTO – Canada’s largest city remained divided over its embattled mayor Monday after a public apology from Rob Ford failed to quell the controversy over an alleged crack video.
While some saw his words as the push needed to move past a long-running drug scandal, others said little had changed for Toronto.
After first saying he was sorry on his weekend radio show, the mayor took to the airwaves again Monday morning to repeat his apology for public drunkenness and texting while driving.
As he had before, however, Ford dodged questions about the alleged video that appears to show him smoking crack cocaine.
“I’m not an alcoholic, I’m not a drug addict,” a defiant Ford said on AM640, while challenging any member of his government to leave if they couldn’t work with him.
“Anybody who wants to go, go. I’ll be running the ship, even if it’s by myself. I’ll be serving the city.”
Ford has been under fire for months ever since two media outlets reported the existence of the alleged video.
Tensions boiled over last week when Toronto’s police chief said authorities had recovered a video with images of the mayor that were consistent with what news outlets had reported.
Ford has repeatedly said he does not use crack cocaine and his lawyer has questioned how anyone could know what substance is shown on the alleged video.
Ford has also said police should release the controversial clip. Police say it’s up to the courts to decide whether evidence is released to the general public.
For some Toronto residents, Ford’s latest statements did little to change their views.
“Rob Ford’s ‘apology’ sounds to me like just blowing smoke. Never mind what kind of smoke,” one person said on Twitter.
“How many lies must Rob Ford be caught in before we can officially declare him to be a liar?” tweeted another.
But Ford’s supporters continued their staunch defence of the mayor.
“Despite whatever Mayor Rob Ford has done in his personal life, he is still a good mayor and people should leave him alone,” tweeted one woman. “The end result is that he is saving tax payers money,” said another.
Toronto’s deputy mayor said Ford’s “blanket apology” and an acknowledgment that his personal lifestyle was affecting the life of the city was a good first step.
“It may not be the one that everyone had anticipated but it was enough,” Coun. Norm Kelly said of Ford’s apology. “I’ll hold him to his commitment, and hopefully time will prove that he’s made the right decision.”
For others, however, Ford’s words have failed to impress.
“I don’t think it was adequate. It didn’t address what most people were very concerned about, which were the drug allegations,” said Coun. Gloria Lindsay Luby.
“What I really would like to hear is him take a leave of absence. Get over this.”
Meanwhile, the chair of Toronto’s budget committee, who works closely with Ford, said the city has to push past the scandal.
“I see his message as one that will allow us to coalesce and keep our minds on the work that needs to be done for the city,” Coun. Frank Di Giorgio said at city hall.
“I believe that Mayor Ford, in his eyes, made an apology that I think was sincere. I think he believes that there’s important work to be done at the city and he has a contribution to make.”
Di Giorgio added that if there’s doubt that Ford can’t conduct business, councillors need to “get in behind him and bolster him.”
Some councillors said they needed to work on how to govern despite Ford’s personal issues.
“The mayor has said he’s not going to resign, and he’s not going to take a leave of absence, so with that we just need to now figure out how to move forward,” said Coun. Karen Stintz, who has announced she plans to run against Ford in the next municipal election.
The controversy around Ford is likely to continue — despite his apology — as many unanswered questions remain about the alleged video.
Toronto police have said that the video they recovered will be evidence in the case against Alexander Lisi — a friend and sometimes driver for the mayor. Police allege Lisi tried to get his hands on the video and have charged him with extortion.
Ontario’s attorney general said he thought Toronto police likely had good reasons for not releasing the video immediately, as Ford and his lawyer have demanded.
“It’s an ongoing police investigation,” said Attorney General John Gerretsen.
“I am not going to get involved in whether or not the mayor should or should not be making these kind of calls.”