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Toronto council asks crack mayor to step aside

Hundred of protesters gather in front of Toronto City Hall on November 13, 2013 to ask for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to step aside/AFP

Hundred of protesters gather in front of Toronto City Hall on November 13, 2013 to ask for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to step aside/AFP

TORONTO, Nov 14 – New allegations that Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor also snorted cocaine and partied with a possible prostitute surfaced on Wednesday, as the city council voted to ask him to stand aside.

Rob Ford, the leader of Canada’s biggest city, has a starring role in a 500-page police report citing witnesses alleging he snorted drugs in bar and took the prescription opiate OxyContin recreationally.

The report, which was released on Wednesday, also says he partied with a woman whom witnesses believed to be a prostitute in his City Hall office and pressured municipal staff to buy him alcohol.

On more than one occasion, women were said to have come to the mayor’s office and said Ford had offered them jobs after they’d smoked joints with him outside bars, his staff told police.

None of the allegations have been tested in court and Ford faces no criminal charges.

At the first city council meeting since Ford admitted to once smoking crack in a “drunken stupor,” the mayor said he purchased illicit drugs in the past two years but repeated denials that he is an addict.

He also denied alleged links to gang members, while steadfastly refusing to step down, as council debated a motion urging him to take a leave of absence to seek treatment for substance abuse.

Ford’s testimony was not enough to sway councillors, who voted by 37 votes to five to ask the mayor to step aside.

Meanwhile outside City Hall, hundreds of protesters gathered with placards calling on Ford to “Man up and step down,” as a new poll showed a sudden downturn in his support.

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The motion by ally-turned-rival Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong asking Ford to step aside is purely symbolic as the city council does not have the power to oust the democratically-elected mayor.

The debate was however marked by confrontations and by accusations that Ford threatened Minnan-Wong in the council chamber, which the mayor strongly denied.

Ford’s brother Doug asked fellow councillors prior to the vote whether they ever smoked marijuana or drove drunk, warning them not to “throw stones in a glass house.”

And the mayor himself offered to pay to have all 44 city councillors drug-tested.

“I have made mistakes, personal mistakes, but these mistakes were not in this council chamber,” the mayor said.

“I sincerely apologize and I understand the embarrassment I caused every member of this council and I understand the embarrassment I’ve caused every resident in the city.”

But he added: “I’m most definitely keeping this job.”

Asked if he is an addict, Ford replied bluntly: “Absolutely not.”

He insisted that his troubles involved only “a few isolated incidents” of public intoxication.

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But he admitted to buying illicit drugs in the past two years. “Yes, I have,” he answered to a question.

Ford also dismissed an infamous photo of himself with notorious gang members in front of an alleged “crack house.”

“I had never met those three men in my life. They came out and asked me to take a picture with them and that is the God honest truth… I never have seen them again,” he said.

“I’m not part of gangbangers, I do not support them.”

But Ford said he could not assure council that there were no more skeletons in his closet.

“I don’t know. I don’t know, there might be like a coat hanger left in my closet. I don’t know. I don’t know what is left,” he said.

A new poll for local media, meanwhile, showed 76 percent of Toronto residents want the mayor to resign or take a temporary leave of absence.

The remaining 24 percent said Ford should keep his job and let voters decide his fate in the next municipal election in October 2014.

The Ipsos Reid survey of 600 people from November 7 to November 11, with a 4.6 percent margin of error, marks a shift in public opinion which had strongly backed the mayor and his tax-cutting agenda.

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