Cries of “shame” rose up as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford walked up to the podium to honor war veterans. One World War II veteran refused to shake his hand, calling him a “druggie.” Unfazed, Ford declared moments later, “I’m not going anywhere,” as calls to take a leave of absence swirl around the embattled mayor. The next day, he was signing bobblehead dolls of himself at City Hall to raise money for charity.
After months of denials, Ford admitted last week that he had smoked crack, probably in one of his “drunken stupors.” The first admission came outside his office to reporters; he later held a news conference in which he apologized, and said he knew that he “embarrassed everyone in the city” and “let you down.”
Then he promptly vowed to stay on, saying he would leave it up to the voters of Toronto to decide—a year from now—whether he should keep his job. “For the sake of the taxpayers of this great city, for the sake of the taxpayers, we must get back to work immediately,” he said during the news conference. “We must keep Toronto moving forward. I was elected to do a job and that’s exactly what I’m going to continue doing.”
The admission came months after the Toronto Star and Gawker.com first reported in May about a video that appeared to show Ford smoking crack. Since then, he has denied the video’s existence and said “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict.” Even as late as Monday, he said “I can assure you … I do not use drugs, I drink.”
Ford continued to insist that he doesn’t have an addiction when he was asked if he would be able to recognize the signs of addiction.
“If I am an addict I could not show up to work every single day and you know I cannot miss work,” he said.
So many misconceptions here on the part of the good mayor. Firstly, he clearly regards alcohol as different from other drugs, which could not be further from the truth. Alcohol is as dangerous as other drugs, perhaps even more so. A 2010 study published in the medical journal Lancet evaluated substances that included alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, ranking them based on how destructive they are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole. Overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.
Secondly, Ford obviously buys into the stereotype of the unemployed, homeless addict, stating that he could not possibly be an addict while still showing up for work. However, over 70% of people with addictions are employed and live with their families. Addiction is a progressive disease that impacts all aspects of a person’s life. If left untreated, it may eventually impact a person’s career and family.
Clearly, Mayor Ford’s alcohol and drug use is already impacting his career. Ford has apologized for his bad behavior 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. Allies and opponents alike agree that a stream of revelations of the mayor’s erratic behavior has consumed Toronto’s politics and has impacted the City Council’s ability to tackle other challenges.
Here are just a few things Rob Ford has done while drunk:
Threatened to kill somebody and “rip his f—ing throat out”.
Was so obnoxious he was asked to leave a military ball.
Got “a little out of control” during 2012’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
Driven at least once.
Caused a major disturbance at a Toronto Maple Leafs game.
Disrupted the Taste of Danforth Festival.
With no clear legal path to force him out, the 44-member City Council is grasping for ways to shunt the larger-than-life leader aside and govern without him until next year’s municipal elections.
Today, almost every member of Toronto’s City Council has stood up and asked Mayor Rob Ford to take a leave of absence.
“Together we stand to ask you to step aside and take a leave of absence,” Councilor Jaye Robinson said, reading open letter to Ford in City Council.
The council voted 41-2 to accept the letter Wednesday, with the embattled mayor casting one of the opposing votes.
The petition is largely symbolic, as they have no real power to oust Ford from office. If Ford refuses, former Ford ally Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, is expected to add a condition to the motion, asking council to petition the province to intervene.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.