Federal and provincial politicians had a lot to say about the recent scandal involving Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Canadian Press/CBC
Politicians from across the map had plenty to say about Rob Ford today after the embattled Toronto mayor left town on a leave of absence in order to seek treatment for a now-admitted alcohol problem.
Ford's struggles with substance abuse amount to "a personal tragedy," Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said in assuming the duties of the mayor.
"I would like to convey our best wishes to the mayor and his family as he gets the help he is seeking."
Ford announced Wednesday night he is taking leave from his mayoral duties and his campaign for re-election to seek "professional help" for alcohol abuse.
A two-sentence letter obtained by CBC News, in which Ford informed the city clerk of his leave, did not say when he will return. (See below for the full letter.)
His brother and campaign manager, Coun. Doug Ford, told CBC News on Thursday the mayor will "immediately" begin a 30-day inpatient program at "one of the best facilities in North America."
Coun. Ford declined to provide a location. Rob Ford flew to Chicago Thursday morning but it is not known if that was his final destination.
His departure follows new revelations published by two local newspapers about Ford's unruly behaviour and substance abuse issues.
The Globe and Mail said Wednesday it had seen a recent video in which Ford appears to smoke crack, while the Toronto Sun released an audio recording in which Ford makes a number of lewd and unflattering remarks — most notably that he would "like to f--king jam" Karen Stintz, one of his rivals in the upcoming municipal election.
Ford is seeking re-election in a municipal campaign that will send Toronto voters to the polls on Oct. 27.
'All kinds of counselling'
The news brought both condemnation and expressions of concern from across the political map.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney, who was the first federal Conservative to call for Ford to step aside last November, told reporters on Parliament Hill Thursday he hopes Ford gets help.
"I hope Mr. Ford gets the support and treatment he needs for the problems he obviously has," Kenney said, adding that he still believes Ford should step aside.
"I think he needs all kinds of counselling," Kenney added.
In a statement, the Prime Minister's Office called Ford's behaviour "very troubling," and, closer to home, the Toronto Region Board of Trade called on him to resign.
"The mayor of the city must put Toronto first," the board said in a statement. "It is increasingly clear that under current circumstances it is not possible for the mayor to do that.
"It is the board’s view that Mayor Ford should step down from office for the remainder of the current term. He is of course, within his rights to seek a new mandate this fall.
"We understand this matter must be very troubling to the mayor and his family, and we wish him well as he seeks professional help for his health.”
Peggy Nash, a Toronto NDP MP, said Ford's comments about Stintz were "beyond vulgar and disgusting."
"But I think it's a good thing that he's finally getting help," Nash said in Ottawa. "I'm sorry he didn't take that opportunity several months back. He would have saved himself, his family and the people of Toronto a lot of grief."
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, a Conservative MP who represents a riding just west of Toronto, said Ford's language was "unacceptable."
"I don't think it's appropriate to use imagery about violence against women when you have a problem or a conflict with a colleague," she told reporters on Parliament Hill.
"So, I wish him luck with his life choices, but that's not acceptable language in any sphere, political or otherwise."
Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak also drew fire in the recording released by the Toronto Sun, when Ford makes an apparent reference to the gay pride rainbow flag that flew outside the Ontario legislature during the Sochi Olympics.
Ford says on the tape that Hudak lost his vote for supporting the motion to fly the flag. Ford clashed with City of Toronto officials on a similar issue during the Olympics.
Hudak was asked repeatedly to comment on the recording but said little except that he stands by his comments earlier this year, insisting Ford should "check himself in and put family first."
Earlier Thursday, Stintz and Olivia Chow, who is also running for the mayor's office, both decried Ford's comments. Chow and Stintz said they are glad the mayor is seeking help, but both also said he is an embarrassment and not fit to serve as mayor.
Stintz said Ford's recent comments about her are "gross," and provide further evidence the city needs a new mayor.
"I am disappointed by the misogynistic language used by Rob Ford," said Stintz.
"The only people who can remove Rob Ford from office are the people of Toronto. I have faith in the people of this city. Rob Ford is not Toronto. We need to move forward."
Business as usual
Norm Kelly said city business would go on as usual in Ford's absence. Kelly has held many of Ford's mayoral powers since the fall. City council stripped Ford of much of his authority in November over his controversial behaviour, and the original revelations of drug and alcohol abuse.
"This is an unusual situation ... however city staff will continue to provide programs and services 24/7 to residents and businesses, and senior staff will continue to support the deputy mayor and all of council," he said.
A statement from the city noted there is "no time limit" on Ford's leave of absence, though city manager Joe Pennachetti said Ford's job could be considered vacant if he does not return by the council meeting in July.
Kelly will keep his title of deputy mayor and will continue to act as councillor for Ward 40, the city said.
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