TORONTO — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford began a leave of absence to seek treatment for substance abuse Thursday, disappearing from public view after a report surfaced of second video of him apparently smoking crack cocaine.
A day after announcing his decision, Ford left his west-end Toronto home in a two car-convoy without answering questions from reporters, leaving behind a trail of uncertainty about his re-election campaign and the political future of Canada’s largest city. His nephew was seen leaving the home with a suitcase.
One of Ford’s campaign rivals and other Toronto politicians demanded he resign. But in a statement Wednesday, Ford said only that would take leave for an unspecified amount of time both his mayoral post and his election campaign. He did not specify what type of treatment he would seek, though his mother and his lawyer said he would enter rehab.
Ford, who was elected four years ago on a wave of support from Toronto’s conservative suburbs, has for months been the subject of a drug-related police investigation, but he has not been charged with any crime. Toronto police said they were looking into the new video, which was reported by the Globe and Mail newspaper.
“I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence,” Ford said in statement late Wednesday. “I have tried to deal with these issues by myself over the past year. I know that I need professional help and I am now 100% committed to getting myself right.”
The Globe and Mail newspaper said it has viewed a second video of Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine in his sister’s basement. The national newspaper said two Globe reporters viewed the video from a self-professed drug dealer showing Ford taking a drag from a pipe early Saturday morning.
The video is part “of a package of three videos the dealer said was surreptitiously filmed around 1:15 a.m., and which he says he is now selling for ‘at least six figures,’” the paper reported. The Globe published still photos from the video and said it paid $10,000 to the drug dealer.
In his statement, Ford did not address the reported video or make any reference to crack cocaine, referring only to his problems with alcohol.
News reports of an earlier video of Ford apparently smoking crack first surfaced last May. The mayor denied the existence of that video for months but after police said they had obtained it, Ford acknowledged that he smoked crack in a “drunken stupor.” He rebuffed intense pressure to resign and launched his re-election bid earlier this year. The first video has never been released to the public.
Ford’s lawyer, Dennis Morris, told The Associated Press that he spoke to Ford Wednesday and the mayor “acknowledges he has a substance abuse problem and he wants to do something about it.”
Morris said Ford told him it was his intention to enter rehab but could not offer more details. “Today a person could say they are going to do this. And tomorrow they could change their mind. Let’s hope that’s not the case,” Morris said.
The mayor’s mother, Diane Ford, told reporters Thursday that her son would enter rehab. “I had no idea it was as serious as it was but he doesn’t live with me so I don’t know what he does every minute of every day.”
His brother Doug Ford, who is a Toronto City Councilor, addressed reporters later but did not say where his brother was going or for how long.
“Rob was very emotional when he told me the hardest thing about this is he knows he let people down. He let his family down, he let his friends down, he let his colleagues down, he let his supporters down and the people of Toronto,” said Doug Ford, who is also the mayor’s campaign manager.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who assumed many of the powers that were stripped from Ford by the Toronto City Council last year, said he did not know where Ford was.
In a letter to the city clerk indicating he would take a leave of absence, Ford said only that he will provide updates on his status, according to Jackie DeSouza, a spokeswoman for the City of Toronto.
Ford has careened from one scandal to another, including public drunkenness and threatening “murder” in a videotaped rant.
His friend and former driver Alexander Lisi is facing extortion charges over alleged attempts to retrieve the first crack video from an alleged gang member. 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.
Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said the latest developments reinforced his belief that Ford had no chance of re-election and was likely to withdraw from the race.
“This will peel away a few more voters,” Wiseman said. “People do not like being lied to, repeatedly, to their faces.”
Also Wednesday, The Toronto Sun said that it had obtained an audio recording of Ford making offensive remarks about other politicians at a bar on Monday night, including his election rival Karen Stintz.
“Rob Ford’s comments are gross,” Stintz said. “Toronto is tired of being gripped in this sad, sad mess.”
Stintz did not call on Ford to resign but another candidate in the Oct. 27 race, John Tory, said the mayor should step down “for the good of the city.”
City Councilor John Parker said Ford should “go and never come back. Things have gone too far.”
Wiseman said constant media attention has created a false impression that the mayor’s political support remains strong.
“Because he’s such a fascinating individual, he’s a perfect storm for the media, and for people who are taken with celebrities,” Wiseman said. “But the people who want selfies with him are looking for entertainment. Those are not people who are going to go door to door for him.”
Grace Skogstad, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto’s campus in Scarborough, one of the amalgamated suburbs where Ford has been most popular, said the mayor likely blew his chances for redemption by waiting too long to seek help.
“He still has some fans,” Skogstad said. “Had he sought the kind of help he needed earlier, he could have had a fighting chance for re-election.”
Associated Press reporter David Crary in New York contributed to this report.
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