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Saturday 18 January 2020

Mayor ducks 'crack video' grilling

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford sits during a City council meeting at Toronto City Hall (AP/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford sits during a City council meeting at Toronto City Hall (AP/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Toronto's mayor continued to avoid questions about a video purportedly showing him smoking crack cocaine, despite calls by both allies and rivals for further comment.

The video has not been released publicly and there is no way to verify whether it is authentic. Reports on the gossip website Gawker last week and in the Toronto Star claimed it was taken by men who said they had sold the drug to Rob Ford.

The mayor of Canada's largest city has refused to take questions and in brief comments on Friday, he called it "ridiculous" and "another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me. And that's all I've got to say for now".

Mr Ford avoided a throng of reporters on Tuesday in his first public appearances following a long holiday weekend in Canada. He made a speech in council, but spoke only about a casino issue.

The Star reported that two journalists watched a video that appears to show Mr Ford, sitting in a chair, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. The Star said it did not obtain the video or pay to watch it.

Gawker and the Star said the video was shown to them by a drug dealer who had been trying to sell it for a six-figure sum.

The Star also reported that Mr Ford allegedly made an anti-gay slur against the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau. In Ottawa on Tuesday, Mr Trudeau decried Mr Ford's alleged use of the slur against him, calling it "reprehensible and unacceptable".

Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne expressed concern over the firestorm surrounding the mayor, saying it was getting in the way of governing. She said the "issues need to be dealt with as quickly as possible so that the council and the leadership of the council can get on with dealing with the business of governing the city".

Mr Ford has been embroiled in controversies about his behaviour since being elected in 2010, but these are the most serious allegations he has faced. The Toronto Star reported earlier this year that he was asked to leave a gala fund-raiser for wounded Canadian soldiers because he appeared intoxicated.

During his campaign for mayor, Mr Ford vehemently denied a 1999 arrest for marijuana possession in Florida, but later admitted it was true. He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and failing to give a breath sample to police. And while in office, he has been accused of flouting conflict of interest rules and making obscene gestures at residents from his car.

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