Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s lawyer, in the first indication that the mayor might bow to heavy pressure to seek help, says Ford is considering entering a rehabilitation programme after he admitted to smoking crack cocaine and a video surfaced of him ranting and threatening to kill someone.
Dennis Morris said on Friday that Ford is “considering his options” and treatment is “one of them.” But he said “it’s best we hear from his lips.”
He said the mayor needs to say what he plans to do himself because “when you go left, he goes right.”
Ford has apologised for his bad behaviour but his refusal to resign or take a leave of absence has frustrated both his opponents and allies on Toronto’s City Council, which has no legal way to force him out unless he is convicted of a crime.
The mayor was mobbed by reporters at City Hall on Friday but refused to discuss what his next steps would be.
“I’m dealing with a serious personal issue right now. Please give me this time,” he said before walking into an elevator.
In another sign of Ford’s growing isolation, the mayor’s radio show was taken off the air. NewsTalk 1010 announced Friday that Ford and his brother “have mutually determined to conclude broadcasts of The City, ending with last week’s show.”
Ford’s influential brother, meanwhile, said he has urged the mayor “to go away for a couple of weeks,” although he reinforced the family’s stance that Ford has no reason to resign.
Doug Ford, a city councillor, said his brother needs a vacation and needs to work on his weight. He also suggested that despite the mounting scandal, Rob Ford remains a potent political force ahead of next year’s mayoral elections.
“If Rob goes away on a little vacation, a week, two weeks, comes back, loses 50 or 60 pounds, and stays on the straight and narrow ... it will be very tough to beat Rob Ford,” Doug Ford told a Toronto radio station.
The mayor, a conservative who was elected three years ago on promises to “stop the gravy train at City Hall,” has vowed to seek re-election. He has had a loyal following in Toronto’s more conservative outer suburbs, who praise him for cutting the size of the city work force and taking on labour unions, including banning public transit employees from going on strike by classifying them as essential employees.
But Ford’s three-year tenure has been consumed by scandals ranging from the petty - making rude gestures at people from his car - to the more serious - being fired from his side job as a volunteer high school football coach after making disparaging remarks about parents and their kids.
The comments from Morris and the mayor’s brother came a day after the video surfaced showing Ford threatening to kill an unknown person. Morris said Thursday was a defining day for the mayor.
The shaky footage, which appeared on the Toronto Star website, showed the mayor pacing around, waving his arms rolling up his sleeves and he unleashes an expletive-laced tirade.
“No holds barred, brother. He dies or I die,” the mayor tells someone else in the room, possibly the person taking the video.
The context of the video is unknown, and it’s unclear who the target of Ford’s wrath is. The Toronto Star said that it bought the video for C$5,000 (HK$37,000) from “a source who filmed it from someone else’s computer.”
The mayor said he was “extremely, extremely inebriated” in the video and “embarrassed.”
The video surfaced just two days after the mayor admitted to having smoked crack while in a “drunken stupor” about a year ago. The stunning confession came a week after police said last week they had a video that appears to show the mayor smoking crack. News reports of the crack video’s existence first surfaced in May, but it has not been released publicly.
In an interview with CBC television airing on Friday night, a man who says he tried to broker the sale of the crack video to reporters said he was approached over the summer by people claiming to be ex-military or ex-police. He said they first tried to buy the video and then made death threats if wasn’t turned over. Mohammed Farah, a community organiser in northwest Toronto, said the people who called and made the threats were doing so on behalf of the mayor.
Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said police have no knowledge of organised crime trying to obtain a copy of the tape.
Doug Ford insisted that the video of the mayor threatening to kill someone was an “isolated incident.” His mother and sister also downplayed the mayor’s troubles, insisting in a television interview on Thursday that Rob Ford was not an addict of any sort.
City Councillors could vote next week on an unprecedented motion that would ask the province of Ontario to pass legislation to remove the mayor. The provincial government has expressed reluctance to interfere in Toronto’s municipal affairs.