TORONTO - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is ignoring calls from even his dwindling group of staunch supporters to step aside in the wake of an admission he has smoked crack cocaine during his time in office.
There has long been no love lost between the conservative mayor and left-leaning councillors during the first three years of his tenure at the helm of Canada's largest city.
But a day after Ford finally addressed more than five months of speculation head on, saying he had tried crack cocaine, likely in "one of my drunken stupors," councillors from right to left appeared united in their desire to see the mayor take time to get help.
When the Toronto Star and U.S. website Gawker first reported in May that a video showed the mayor allegedly smoking crack, Ford denied the reports and his closest allies at city hall stood by him.
But now that Ford has admitted to the drug use and police have announced they have the video, those allies are joining politicians of all stripes in urging him to take a break and get help.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly was tight-lipped about his meetings with the mayor over the past few days, but on Wednesday said he thought it was important to let the public know where he stood.
"I'm inviting him today, as I have previously, to take a pause with all its advantages, because it's the one option that looks after all of the issues that are on the table right now," Kelly told television station CP24.
"He could protect his family, himself, health-wise, his political career and the vitality of his administration if he took a pause and regrouped and re-entered the fray later this year or early next year."
Ford is not following that advice, vowing in a contrite but defiant news conference hours after his surprise admission to stay on as mayor and run for re-election next year.
Ontario Opposition Leader Tim Hudak said Wednesday that if Ford called him for advice he would tell him to put his family first and get healthy.
"If I were in that situation and it meant taking some time to do so, I would take that time," said the Progressive Conservative Leader.
Fervent city hall ally Coun. Frances Nunziata said Wednesday that she and fellow supporters are urging him to take a leave of absence.
"I was hoping he would listen to us, as strong supporters," Nunziata said. "It frustrates me but there's nothing we can do. He's the only one that can make the decision on his own."
Right-leaning Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti stopped short of expressing full confidence in the mayor's ability to fulfil his mayoral duties.
"In light of the recent drug use admission from the mayor I must stress that there is no need to enter into a state of panic at city hall or across Toronto," he wrote in a statement.
"We have a very capable deputy mayor and dedicated councillors to carry forward with the fiscally responsible agenda we were elected to implement."
Mammoliti's statement went on to warn of a "left-wing coup."
Municipal law makes no provision for the mayor's forced removal from office unless he's convicted and jailed for a criminal offence and the province has said it has no plans to amend the law.
"Obviously these are troubling allegations and the city has tools at its disposal should they choose to use them," said Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey.
"We have no plans to step in. There's an ongoing investigation."
The ongoing nature of the case is what is troubling some at city hall. As news of the mayor's confession, and refusal to step aside, made headlines around the world, some city councillors expressed skepticism at Ford's claim that he has "nothing left to hide."
Denzil Minnan-Wong, who plans to table a non-binding motion asking Ford to take a temporary leave of absence, said he's "concerned" about the possibility city hall hasn't seen the end of revelations about the mayor.
"I don't know what it is, but there's more information that will likely come out," he said. "I'm troubled by that, that it will create further controversy and hurt this city even further."
Karen Stintz, who has said she will run for mayor next year, predicted more information could be revealed, but said she hoped for the city's sake that this was the end of it.
"What I do know is there is more information that could be revealed," she told a large crowd of reporters gathered outside Ford's office.
"I don't know what that information is, again, we'll find out more as the days unfold and I certainly hope for the city's sake that we've seen the end of this."
There are several ways in which more, possibly damaging, information about the mayor could emerge.
Ontario Superior Court Judge Ian Nordheimer is expected to make a decision early next week on whether remaining portions of a document that revealed Ford's ties and covert meetings with an alleged drug dealer can be released.
The police document was partially released last week as part of a pending drug case against Ford's friend Alexander Lisi. It revealed that the target of the investigation was Ford and the video that allegedly shows him smoking crack cocaine.
It's alleged the video "relates" to a home believed to be a "crack house" and police believe a notorious photo of Ford was also taken outside the home. The photo shows Ford posing with Anthony Smith, who was later shot and killed, and two alleged gang members who were subsequently charged as part of Project Traveller, a drugs and weapons investigation.
Media outlets have been arguing in court for access to a Project Traveller document similar to what was released in the Lisi case.
A ruling Tuesday from Nordheimer, who is also hearing that case, clears the way for media lawyers to argue for the release of wiretap information.
Police have said it was as part of Project Traveller that they came across a video of Ford consistent with media reports about him appearing to smoke crack cocaine.
That video is going to form part of a second court case for Lisi, who police have charged with extortion for alleged attempts to retrieve the video.
But police have also said they seized two videos during the Project Traveller investigation, though they remain tight lipped about the contents of the second file.
A lawyer for one of the men in the notorious photo with Ford says he's going to court on Friday seeking copies of both videos.
Mohammad Khattak's lawyer, Daniel Brown, argues the video files are "relevant disclosure" that may assist Khattak in defending himself on the charges he faces.
Brown said if Ford "truly wishes to see himself on that video," he can join the application.
_ With files from Paola Loriggio.