TORONTO — It is up to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to decide whether he should step aside and seek help after admitting he smoked crack cocaine, a visibly upset Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Thursday.
The longtime Ford family friend choked up when asked in Toronto about Ford's shocking confession, which has made headlines around the globe.
His voice shaking, Flaherty took a long pause before answering, in what appeared to be an effort to hold back tears.
"I am close with the family,'' said Flaherty, who served with the mayor's father in the Ontario legislature.
"At the end of the day, he has to make his own decision about what he ought to do," he added.
"Certainly his family is helping him and wishing him well. That's all I can say."
Ford is ignoring calls from even staunch allies to take a leave of absence in the wake of his admission that he smoked crack, likely in one of his "drunken stupors" about a year ago.
His stunning statement came after Toronto police said they had a video of the mayor, consistent with media reports of a video in which Ford appeared to be smoking crack and making racist and homophobic remarks.
Politicians from all sides of the political spectrum have been urging Ford to step down and seek help.
Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong plans to table a non-binding motion asking Ford to take a temporary leave of absence. He said he's amending it to say that if Ford refuses, council will ask the Ontario government "to pass legislation to have him removed."
"If he can't find the exit, then I think we have to show him the door," Minnan-Wong said Thursday.
The situation is deteriorating and is only likely to get worse as more information comes to light, he said.
Municipal law makes no provision for the mayor's forced removal from office unless he's convicted and jailed for a criminal offence. The governing Liberals have said they have no plans to amend the law.
City hall has "tools at its disposal," said Premier Kathleen Wynne.
"I have confidence in city council and the police service and the judicial system," she said. "So we need to let those processes unfold."
Asked whether it would set a troubling precedent to have the province intervene, Minnan-Wong said: "I think we're in a situation we've never seen before" and that calls for "extraordinary measures."
Ford made an emotional apology to voters for his behaviour, but vowed to stay on as mayor and run for re-election next year.
"I have nothing left to hide," he said Tuesday, just hours after his jaw-dropping confession to smoking crack.
But there may be more, possibly damaging, information about the mayor that 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. The mayor has also called for its release.
— with files from Paola Loriggio and Allison Jones.
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<strong>"Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But do I? Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago."</strong> -- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the media at City Hall in Toronto, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 after his admission of smoking crack cocaine
<strong>"With today's announcement, I know I embarrassed everyone in this city and I will be forever sorry. There is only one person to blame for this and that is myself. I know admitting my mistake was the right thing to do and I feel like a thousand pounds have been lifted off my shoulders."</strong> <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the media at City Hall in Toronto, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Ford says he loves his job and will stay on as mayor of Toronto despite admitting for the first time that he smoked crack. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)</em>
<strong>"Again, I sincerely, sincerely, sincerely apologize."</strong> <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford composes himself as he addresses the media at City Hall in Toronto, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Ford says he loves his job and will stay on as mayor of Toronto despite admitting for the first time that he smoked crack. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)</em>
<strong>"I'm not an alcoholic, I'm not a drug addict."</strong> -- Ford denies he has a substance abuse problem following the confirmation of the existence of a video in which he appears to be smoking from a crack pipe. <em>FILE - In this Oct. 31, 2013 file photo, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford tells to the media to get off his property as he leaves his home in Toronto. The embattled mayor on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 said he smoked crack "probably a year ago" during a "drunken stupor." (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette, File)</em>
<strong>"That was pure stupidity. I shouldn't have got hammered down at the Danforth. If you're going to have a couple drinks you stay home, and that's it. You don't make a public spectacle of yourself." </strong> <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford talks on his weekly radio show in Toronto, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Mark Blinch)</em>
<strong>"I think everyone has seen these allegations against me today. I wish I could come out and defend myself. Unfortunately, I can't, because it's before the courts and that's all I can say right now... I have no reason to resign." </strong> <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses media outside his office in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. Ford says he has no reason to step down despite police confirmation that they have seized a video that appears to show him smoking a crack pipe.(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)</em>
<strong>“We’re on the right track. I’ve taken the city, which was literally on the cliff, and brought it back, and people are very happy... The people I talk to are very happy with the way we’re running the city.”</strong> -- Ford says <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2013/10/25/mayor_rob_ford_says_he_rescued_toronto_from_the_cliff.html" target="_blank">he's set Toronto back on course</a> in an interview with Newstalk 1010 radio host Jerry Agar on Oct. 25, 2013 <em>Canadian recording artist Drake, left, and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford laugh at a news conference announcing that Toronto will host the 2016 NBA All-Star game, in Toronto, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)</em>
<strong>"We’re bringing accountability to City Hall. <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2013/05/26/rob_ford_there_is_no_video_reporters_are_a_bunch_of_maggots.html" target="_blank">First time ever</a>.”</strong> -- Ford on his radio show, May 2013 <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford answers questions about the three new staffers he has hired at a news conference at city hall in Toronto on Friday, May 31, 2013. Ford, the burly populist who refers to his conservative supporters as "Ford Nation," has transfixed North Americans since published accounts surfaced of a video that apparently shows him puffing from a glass crack pipe. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Michelle Siu)</em>
<strong>“Bunch of maggots… Sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”</strong> -- Ford blasts journalists on his weekly radio show on May 25, 2013 <em>FILE -- In this Oct. 27, 2010, file photo, then newly elected Toronto mayor Rob Ford speaks on-air at Talk Radio AM 640 with host John Oakley in Toronto. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette, File)</em>
<strong>“I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine. As for a video, I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist.”</strong> <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford reads a statement to the media at City Hall on Friday, May 24, 2013 in Toronto. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/11/05/rob-ford-crack-cocaine-denial_n_4221068.html?utm_hp_ref=canada" target="_blank">Ford denied that he smokes crack cocaine and says he is not an addict after a video purported to show him using the drug</a>. Ford did not say whether he has ever used the drug. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)</em>
<strong>“I have about $50,000 worth of football equipment in there. I’m donating that equipment. I’m not taking the equipment. Some crazy people are saying stuff. You know what? They can have all the equipment. I just want them to play football and win the championship.”</strong> -- Ford clarifies his desire for the <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/09/09/don_bosco_gives_donated_football_equipment_back_to_rob_ford.html" target="_blank">Don Bosco football team to keep the equipment he supplied while coaching the team on his radio show on May 26, 2013</a>
<strong>(Sometimes Ford doesn't say anything at all)</strong> <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford sits during a City council meeting at Toronto City Hall on Tuesday May 21, 2013. Ford ignored a crush of reporters waiting outside his city hall office this morning in the hopes he would address allegations that he was recorded on video appearing to smoke crack cocaine. (AP Photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS,Nathan Denette)</em>
<strong>"I work hard,.. Just call me. I return your call and go to your front door to serve you."</strong> -- Ford on his work habits after a CBC audit of his parking habits <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/04/05/rob-ford-parking_n_3018957.html" target="_blank">called into question his workload</a> <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford emerges from his office holding slices of a birthday cake to offer to members of the media at city hall in Toronto on Tuesday May 28, 2013. The mayor was celebrating his 44th birthday. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)</em>
<strong>“It will be good.”</strong> -- Ford following the approval of a Hero Burger joint outside Toronto's City Hall, April 2013 <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford poses for photographs inside a giant shark mouth while attending the grand opening of the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. </em>
<strong>“Well, call me. Call me at home -- 233-6934, 416-233-6934 – and [I’ll or we’ll] go for a coffee, and explain how politics works. You have to be over the age of 18, a Canadian citizen, and live in Toronto. And the rest is up to you, how hard you want to work.”</strong> -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/04/22/rob-ford-women-politics-females-coffee_n_3132802.html" target="_blank">Ford puts a call out to Canadian women</a>, whom he says are underrepresented in politics, on his radio show in April, 2013 <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford leaves his home on Friday, May 17, 2013, after published reports said a video appears to show Ford smoking crack cocaine. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)</em>
<strong>"I'm try[ing] to catch up on my work and you know I keep my eyes on the road, but I'm a busy man." </strong>-- Ford makes an admission after a Twitter pic showed the mayor <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/14/rob-ford-reading-driving-car-gardiner_n_1776183.html" target="_blank">reading a document while driving</a> in August 2012 <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford gets in his vehicle after appearing in court in Toronto, Monday, Jan.7, 2013. Ford is back in court to appeal a ruling that ordered him out of office. (AP Photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS,Frank Gunn)</em>
<strong>“This comes down to left-wing politics. The left wing wants me out of here and they’ll do anything in their power. I’m going to fight tooth and nail to hold on to my job,” </strong> <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford talks to media at city hall in Toronto, Monday, Nov.26, 2012. A judge has found Ford guilty of conflict of interest and has ordered him removed from office. (AP PHOTO/ THE CANADIAN PRESS, Nathan Denette)</em>
<strong>“It’s hard to hide 300 pounds of fun.” – Ford replies when asked if he had been purposely avoiding the media on Feb. 17, 2011. </strong> <em>Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford, left, takes on professional wrestler Hulk Hogan in an arm-wrestling match to promote Fan Expo in Toronto on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 . (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)</em>
<strong>“We've been in Huntsville for the past 30 (years), as long as I can remember, since I've been a little boy... I'm carrying on a tradition my father had, last year I was there during the campaign, we’re there every year.”</strong> -- Ford explains why he will not be attending Toronto's 2011 LGBTQ Pride parade, for which he came under fire from Torontonians inside and out of the community <em>FILE - In this Thursday, May 30, 2013 file photo, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford whistles as he walks to a meeting at city hall in Toronto. Ford, the burly populist who refers to his conservative supporters as "Ford Nation," has transfixed North Americans since published accounts surfaced of a video that apparently shows him puffing from a glass crack pipe. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette, File)</em>
<strong>“We’re going to put an end to the gravy train.”</strong> -- Ford's famous line said during his victory speech on Oct. 25, 2010.
<strong>“Those Oriental people work like dogs. They work their hearts out. They are workers non-stop. They sleep beside their machines. That’s why they’re successful in life. I went to Seoul, South Korea, I went to Taipei, Taiwan. I went to Tokyo, Japan. That’s why these people are so hard workers (sic). I’m telling you, the Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over.”</strong> -- Ford makes comments about Asians during a holiday shopping debate in March 2008. He later apologizes for using the term 'Oriental' and says he meant that Asians were hard workers
<strong>"I want to be mayor, I want to be premier and<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/11/05/rob-ford-prime-minister_n_4221267.html?utm_hp_ref=robford" target="_blank"> I want to be prime minister</a>." </strong> -- Ford in a 2006 interview for Rogers TV
<strong>"What I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks. Sooner or later, you're going to get bitten. And every year we have dozens of people that get hit by cars or trucks. Well, no wonder. Roads are built for buses, cars and trucks. Not for people on bikes. And my heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day." </strong> -- Ford airs his views on bikes at a city council meeting in March 2007 <em>Toronto Mayor Rob Ford answers questions about the three new staffers he has hired at a news conference at city hall in Toronto on Friday, May 31, 2013. Ford, the burly populist who refers to his conservative supporters as "Ford Nation," has transfixed North Americans since published accounts surfaced of a video that apparently shows him puffing from a glass crack pipe. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Michelle Siu)</em>