Mayor Rob Ford said in the Toronto election campaign's first televised debate that people were no longer interested in his drug scandal, after the front-runners seeking to replace him said he had embarrassed the city and ruined its reputation.
But mayoral candidates Olivia Chow and John Tory made no mention on Wednesday of Ford's incidents of drug use, drunken public appearances and erratic behaviour that have given him international notoriety. Both avoided talking about it directly.
"It's time to take down the circus tent at City Hall. Rob Ford has made Toronto an international embarrassment. It's time for change," said Hong Kong-born Chow, a left-leaning candidate popular in downtown Toronto.
Tory, a right of centre candidate, told Ford he had disrespected the office of the mayor.
Ford acknowledged last year - after months of denials - that he had smoked crack in a "drunken stupor" after police said they had a video that appeared to show him smoking it. The video was never made public. News reports of its existence surfaced last May, igniting a media firestorm around the mayor of Canada's largest city. But Ford has rebuffed pressure to resign and is seeking to be re-elected on October 27. He said people were no longer interested in scandal talk.
"People have heard this story. It's rewind, rewind, rewind," Ford said, adding that the scandals and police investigation were "personal" and that he was "not perfect."
Journalists in the debate also did not raise specific questions about the drug scandal or the police investigation into the mayor and his friend and former driver Alexander Lisi, who is facing extortion charges over attempts to retrieve the crack video from an alleged gang member.
Tory later said he did not need to ask Ford about it. "I don't need to repeat all the gory details for everybody … because they know it very well," he said.
Ford is not facing criminal charges, but the police investigation continues. Recently released police documents noted that meetings between Ford and Lisi were "indicative to that of drug trafficking" and that the two had been in constant contact during the investigation.
The Toronto City Council stripped Ford of most of his powers in an effort to isolate him last year, but it lacked the authority to force him out.