Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford attends an executive committee meeting at Toronto's City Hall on Thursday December 5, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young The Canadian Press
As the latest release of police wiretap information unveils more shocking insight into Rob Ford's behaviour, some are wondering why Toronto's mayor is not facing criminal charges.
Documents released by the court Wednesday chronicle conversations police overheard between alleged gang members discussing a video that shows Ford smoking crack cocaine.
The documents and the conversations they chronicle gathered by police are part of a guns and drugs investigation called Project Brazen 2.
In one of the conversations, two alleged drug dealers discuss being offered $5,000 and a car in exchange for a video. Though he is not mentioned by name, police believe the men were describing an offer from Ford.
In another conversation, a man claims he has multiple photos of Ford "doing the hezza," slang for heroin.
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair was asked Wednesday why Ford was not facing charges. He said the case was reviewed by investigators and the Crown.
"Where reasonable probable grounds to lay a charge exist, charges have been laid," he said. "But that's up to the investigators in consultation with the Crown."
Coun. Adam Vaughan, speaking Thursday on CBC's Metro Morning, said Blair's explanation needs to go further.
"There's a creeping sense that there's a two-tiered policing system in this city," he told host Matt Galloway. "That if you've got a famous name or if you hold an office or if like Rob Ford … you've got lots of money and lots of lawyers, that you get policed differently than an individual on the street facing exactly the same challenges that Rob Ford is facing.
"We need to hear the chief talk about how discretion is being used and how evidence is being used," said Vaughan. "I think we need [Blair to] flesh it out in public and I think the chief can do this."
Iain MacKinnon, the lawyer who represented CBC and Sun Media in the application to have the wiretap information made public, spoke about the case on Metro Morning on Thursday.
He said information contained in the wiretaps is "troubling," but may not meet the threshold for filing criminal charges.
MacKinnon points out that police were investigating another, larger case when Ford's name and details about the crack video came up unexpectedly.
Could jeopardize larger case
"The police just can't swoop in," said MacKinnon. "There's another, longer investigation going on and [charging Ford] could scuttle an entire investigation which is really what the wiretaps were all about. It's easy in retrospect to say, 'Why didn't they do something?' But at the time, police need to gather information and build a case."
Ford's lawyer, Dennis Morris, who appeared on CBC News Network on Thursday, questioned the reliability of the men police heard talking about Ford. Morris also pointed out that the information released Wednesday does not contain verbatim conversations, but police officers' summaries of those conversations.
"We don't have one word uttered by mayor Ford in any of those thousands of conversations," he said. "We have police interpretations of snippets. We have comments translated from another language."
Dave Seglins, who has covered the Ford story for CBC News, also said the context of the conversations needs to be considered.
"There isn't any hard evidence of Rob Ford's activity," he said on CBC News Network. "These are just phone calls from people who could be boasting, they could be making it up."
Ford has refused to resign over the scandal. Last month, council voted to strip him of his powers, leaving Ford holding the title of mayor with few powers of the office.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly told CBC News on Thursday morning that council's moves to curtail Ford's powers have limited any damage his behaviour has done to the operations of the city.
"This is not going to impact on the government of the City of Toronto," said Kelly.