TORONTO — Mayor Rob Ford said Toronto’s City Council had no business stripping him of most of his powers over his admitted crack cocaine use and heaving drinking, implying in a television interview aired Tuesday that many councilors are no different from him.
Despite his defiant attitude, Ford and his lawyer promised that the mayor was changing his ways and has not had a drop of alcohol in three weeks.
The council voted overwhelmingly Monday in favor of slashing Ford’s office budget by 60 percent and allowing mayoral staff to join the deputy mayor, Norm Kelly. Ford now effectively has no legislative power, as he will no longer chair the executive committee, though he retains his title and ability to represent Toronto at official functions.
In an interview broadcast on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Tuesday, Ford accused city councilors of attacking him for personal reasons and suggested many of them were guilty of the same behavior he has admitted to.
“All they did was stab me in the back over issues, the same issues that I’ve admitted to that they do, but nobody knows about it,” he said.
He again denied he had a serious problem with alcohol, though he said he was getting help from “health care professionals on a number of issues” and promised the public would see a difference in him in five months.
“Do I excessively drink once in a while, or it’s called binge drinking whatever term you want to use? Yes I have. I absolutely have,” Ford said.
Ford has apologized for his drug use and drinking. But he and his brother, City Councilor Doug Ford, have also frequently lashed out at journalists and politicians, demanding to know whether they have ever used drugs, gotten behind the wheel drunk or otherwise misbehaved.
The mayor has suggested in the past that other councilors are on drugs but that he is “not a rat” and will not name them.
His lawyer, Dennis Morris, said the mayor is addressing his substance abuse problems and working out two hours a day.
“Hundred percent he’s involved in treatment, not for alcoholism, but something related to alcohol. He is not an alcoholic. I’ve spoken to his doctor and that’s all I can tell you,” Morris told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
“He’s addressing his substance abuse problems. A lot of things go with these things,” Morris said. “It’s a domino effect so there’s that abuse combined with two or three other things that go along. Sometimes you eat too much.”
“All these hours of idleness that were otherwise occupied by bad behavior are now replaced with good behavior,” he added.
The council session Monday was one of the stormiest in memory as the burly mayor argued with colleagues and members of the public and at one point knocked down a petite councilwoman as he charged toward one of his hecklers. Cries of “Shame, shame” came from the gallery.
Morris said the mayor will appeal council’s motion in the courts. The motion approved by the council was revised from an even tougher version to ward off potential legal challenges.
The city’s lawyer said the proposal does not render Ford “mayor in name only.”
However, Ford asserted that he and his aides field tens of thousands of emails and phone calls yearly, and said the pared-down budget and staff would be inadequate.
The council does not have the power to remove Ford from office unless he is convicted of a crime. It pursued the strongest recourse available after recent revelations that Ford smoked crack cocaine and his repeated outbursts of erratic behavior.
Toronto, a city of 2.7 million people, has been abuzz with the Ford melodrama since May, when news outlets reported that he had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine.
Recently released court documents show the mayor became the subject of a police investigation after those reports surfaced. Ford, who denied there was any incriminating video, now acknowledges the reports were accurate. Police said they had obtained a copy of a video that appears to show Ford puffing on a crack pipe, but did not release its contents because it is evidence in the case against Ford associate Alexander Lisi, who faces trial on drug and extortion charges.
In interviews with police, former Ford staffers have made further accusations, saying the mayor drank heavily, sometimes drove while intoxicated and pressured a female staffer to engage in oral sex. Ford spouted an obscenity on live television last week while denying the sex allegation.
In a TV interview Monday night for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Ford said he had only smoked crack cocaine once. He denied that he has driven while drunk, but admitted that he had bought marijuana since becoming mayor.
The mayor declared that he was “finished” with alcohol.
“I’ve had a come-to-Jesus moment if you want to call it that,” Ford said.
Associated Press writers David Martin and Charmaine Noronha contributed to this report.
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