Toronto Mayor Rob Ford confronts Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (L) during council at City Hall in Toronto, November 13, 2013. Minnan-Wong has put a motion forward that demands Ford take a leave of absence and apologize for this crack use. Ford admitted he has smoked crack cocaine, probably "in one of my drunken stupors," but insisted he's not an addict and said he would stay in office and run for reelection next year. Mark Blinch/Reuters
Mayor Rob Ford received formal notice Wednesday that the majority of his council colleagues want him to take a leave of absence in light of his admissions of crack cocaine use, though the defiant chief magistrate has given no sign at all that he intends to comply.
Following a lengthy debate at City Hall on Wednesday, councillors voted in favour of a stinging, yet ultimately symbolic motion that Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong had put forward and which Ford made his key item.
Immediately before councillors voted on the various components of the motion, Ford told his colleagues he had said all that he could in his defence.
- PHOTOS: Rob Ford grilled by city council
“I think I’ve said everything I really could say today. There’s not much to add,” Ford said, after earlier admitting he had purchased illegal drugs in the past two years.
“Apologizing and saying sorry, you can only say that so many times. There’s nothing else to say, guys. I really F-ed up and that’s it.”
The request for him to take a leave and Ford’s admission that he had purchased drugs while serving as mayor, were just two key moments in a council meeting that also saw a separate petition presented that said the mayor should take a break from his job.
Ford took questions from councillors, including some pointed ones from Minnan-Wong, about the mayor’s views on drugs and crime.
"Do you have zero tolerance of guns, drugs and gangs?" Minnan-Wong asked Ford on Wednesday morning.
The mayor said he does. Minnan-Wong then asked, "Have you purchased illegal drugs in the past two years?"
After a long pause, Ford replied, "Yes I have."
"I'm humiliated by it, but I can't change the past," said Ford. "All I can do is move on and that's what I'm doing."
At one point during Wednesday’s council meeting, Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti floated the idea of having drug testing for all members of council.
The mayor later unsuccessfully attempted to move a motion demanding that his colleagues be tested.
Mayor accused of moving in 'threatening way'
It was just one of many dramatic moments during the morning session. Things had become heated earlier when Minnan-Wong alleged Ford stood in front of him in "a threatening way" as debate on the motion got underway.
The councillor asked for an apology. Heckling and shouting ensued, prompting the chair to call a five-minute recess.
After the recess, Speaker Frances Nunziata asked Ford to apologize. Ford refused, insisting he had merely asked the councillor to take his seat.
"I did not threaten him in any shape or form," said Ford. "He knows that. I asked him to take his seat. I have nothing to apologize for."
After that exchange, councillors used the debate to ask Ford about his behaviour, hammering him with questions about his admitted use of crack cocaine and his drinking. Ford continued to deny he is an addict and side-stepped questions about whether he will seek professional help.
Ford indicated he would take, at most, a few days off during the holiday season. Ford has defied all calls to take a break from his job, despite his crack use and other high-profile "mistakes," some of them alcohol-related.
Coun. Michael Thompson asked the mayor about 15 Windsor Rd., which police information has said is a crack house and where Ford was photographed in a picture that is now infamously linked to the alleged crack video.
Ford denied it was a crack house, and said "a family lives there." Ford then confronted Thompson, asking him if he'd been to the house.
"I have no interest in being in that house. I am not a crack user," Thompson shot back.
Ford described the photo as a "one-off picture," insisting he had met the people in the picture once and had "never seen them again."
As of late Wednesday afternoon, Ford was huddled in his office with advisers and his brother, Coun. Doug Ford.
The circus-like events at Wednesday's meeting continued what has been a week of controversy surrounding Toronto's embattled mayor.
Those events also came on a day in which a court allowed additional information to be released about a police investigation that led to charges against the mayor’s friend and occasional driver, Alexander (Sandro) Lisi.
Protesters gather at City Hall
Separately, Coun. Jaye Robinson presented a letter of petition signed by 30 of the 44 councillors that also asks the mayor to step aside and take a leave of absence.
"Our city's reputation has been damaged," said Robinson while reading the letter. "Together we stand to ask you to step aside and take a leave of absence. Let's get on with city business."
The reading was met with a round of applause.
The vote to accept the petition into the record carried 41-2, with the mayor and Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti voting against it.
Meanwhile, outside city hall, protesters gathered calling for Ford to resign.
By noon, hundreds were in Nathan Phillips Square, chanting, drumming and waving placards with messages that included "Resign" and "No shame."
Others scrawled messages in chalk on the steps. "You are costing the city millions," read one.
"This isn't just about crack; it's about crime," Nikki Thomas, spokeswoman for the anti-Ford group Save Toronto, told the crowd.
"This man has put himself in a position where he can be blackmailed and extorted by criminal interests," she said. "We can never trust him again."
Months of questions
Throughout his three years at the helm of the city, Ford has constantly made headlines for his political stances, his outbursts and events in his private life.
Questions about his personal drug use have raged for months, after the Toronto Star and the U.S. gossip website Gawker each reported that someone had been shopping a video allegedly showing Ford smoking crack cocaine.
Ford long denied both using the drug and the video’s existence. But after Toronto police Chief Bill Blair revealed at the end of October that his investigators had seized a video of the mayor that was consistent with prior media reports, Ford began calling for that video’s release.
The mayor also made apologies for mistakes such as getting "hammered" at the Taste of the Danforth street festival and to drunkenness after hours at city hall on St. Patrick’s Day last year.
Just over a week ago, Ford publicly admitted that he had smoked crack cocaine. The mayor said he was sorry, but that he intended to carry on and that he had "nothing left to hide."
Two days later, the Toronto Star published a bizarre video on its website that showed Ford swearing and ranting. The mayor told reporters he was "extremely, extremely inebriated" on the video, though he did not explain the circumstances under which it was recorded.
The mayor still has a year to go in his current mandate. He has repeatedly said he will run for re-election, though he has predicted the coming campaign will be "a bloodbath."
Ford, 44, is a father of two young children. He and his family live in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, where he previously served as a city councillor.
He came to power three years ago, promising to watch taxpayers’ money closely and to "stop the gravy train" — a rallying cry Ford has often invoked to describe his efforts to rein in spending and waste.
The graphic shown below provides a breakdown of the council vote today on the part of the motion that calls on Ford to take a leave of absence to deal with his personal issues:
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