Ford says scandals are old news during debate
TORONTO (AP) — Mayor Rob Ford said during the first televised debate of Toronto's election campaign that people are no longer interested in the drug scandal surrounding him after the front-runners seeking to replace him said he has embarrassed the city and ruined its reputation.
But mayoral candidates Olivia Chow and John Tory made no mention of the incidents of drug use, drunken public appearances and erratic behavior that have given Ford international notoriety during the debate on Wednesday. Both only said Ford has let the city down.
"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 Chow, a left-leaning candidate popular in downtown Toronto. Tory, a right of center candidate, told Ford he's disrespected the office of the mayor.
Ford, who has rebuffed pressure to resign since admitting to smoking crack cocaine last year, said people are not interested in scandal talk.
"People have heard this story. It's rewind, rewind, rewind," said Ford, who often rolled his eyes, stared at the ceiling and flashed grins at the audience.
Ford also said talk of it the scandals is "personal" and he repeated that he's "not perfect." The mayor, who avoided reading from a script unlike the other candidates, looked more relaxed and touted his fiscal track record.
Ford acknowledged last year after months of denials that he smoked crack in a "drunken stupor" after police said they obtained the crack video, which has never been released to the public. News reports of the crack video's existence first surfaced last May, igniting a media firestorm around Ford. He careened from one scandal to another, becoming a figure of international notoriety and a national embarrassment for many Canadians.
The candidates and journalists in the debate didn't ask specific questions about the crack 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 a video that appears to show Ford smoking crack from an alleged gang member.
Tory later said he didn't need to ask Ford about it.
"I think people are very familiar with all of those details. They don't need me to take up time in the debate," Tory said. "If I say he disrespected his office through his behavior than that sums it up I think. I don't need to repeat all the gory details for everybody out there to hear because they know it very well."
The Toronto City Council stripped Ford of most of his powers in an effort to isolate him, but it lacked the authority to force him out. The election is Oct. 27 and many more debates are scheduled.
Ford is not facing criminal charges but police say the investigation continues. Recently released police documents note that meetings between Ford and Lisi are "indicative to that of drug trafficking" and that the two have been in constant contact during the investigation.
Ford has said he's confident he can be re-elected despite the scandals. He has said he remains highly popular in Toronto's working-class conservative suburbs, which carried him to victory in 2010, galvanized by his promise to shake things up at a City Hall he said was dominated by free-spending liberal elites.
Ford's promises to slash spending, cut taxes and end what he called "the war on the car" gained him a loyal following in the suburbs that came to be known as "Ford Nation."