Rob Ford, the colourful Conservative mayor of Canada’s biggest city, has refused to resign despite revelations that Toronto police have acquired a video that was claimed to show him apparently smoking from a crack pipe.
Police recovered the film from a hard drive seized as part of a major drug and gang investigation. The existence of the video had been widely reported in the media but was only confirmed in court documents released on Thursday. Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said it did not contain evidence to charge the Mayor with a crime, but “depicts images that are consistent with those previously reported in the press”.
“As a citizen of Toronto I’m disappointed,” Mr Blair said. “This is a traumatic issue for citizens of this city and the reputation of this city.”
Pressure was mounting on Mr Ford, 44, to resign yesterday. Most Canadian newspapers devoted their front pages to the story. The video in question was mentioned in a 465-page application for a search warrant used in the arrest on Thursday of 35-year-old Alexander Lisi, an alleged drug dealer who is also a friend of the Mayor’s, not to mention his former driver.
Lisi has been charged with extortion, and Mr Ford’s name appears repeatedly in the investigation report.
The pair met more than 100 times between May and October this year, including approximately four times a week outside Lisi’s home, according to court documents. Police also detected a pattern whereby Mr Ford would leave his car unattended at a petrol station close to his home, while Lisi would arrive in his car and place a package in the Mayor’s vehicle.
The public controversy began in May, when reporters from the Toronto Star newspaper and New York-based website Gawker were shown the video. Neither outlet published the clip, because its owner demanded a six-figure payment. Yet, according to the Star, Mr Ford appears in the footage “obviously impaired, smoking what appears to be crack cocaine and making homophobic and racist slurs”.
Mr Ford has repeatedly denied smoking crack. His lawyer, Dennis Morris, demanded the video be shown to the public, saying the substance being smoked in the clip was unidentifiable, and accusing the police of pursuing a “political agenda”.
At a press conference, Mr Ford insisted he had no reason to resign. “I wish I could come out and defend myself. Unfortunately, I can’t because it’s before the courts,” he said.