By Cameron French
TORONTO, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admittedon Tuesday he has smoked crack cocaine, probably "in one of mydrunken stupors," but insisted he's not an addict and said hewould stay in office and run for reelection next year.
Speaking just days after Toronto's police chief confirmedthat police have recovered a copy of a video that two mediaorganizations have said shows the mayor smoking the drug, Fordsaid he had smoked crack about a year ago.
"Yes I have smoked crack cocaine... Probably in one of mydrunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago," hetold reporters outside his office.
Later, he returned to address the media with an emotionalformal statement. "To the residents of Toronto, I know I havelet you down, and I can't do anything else but apologize," hesaid.
Elected in 2010 on a cost-cutting platform, Ford has beenable to maintain strong voter support in his suburban base evenas the scandal has escalated. A poll taken after Police ChiefBill Blair confirmed the existence of the video put Ford'sapproval rating at 44 percent, up five points from a previouspoll.
But while Ford's popular support has held strong, his oncerock-solid supporters at City Hall have started wavering.
City councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a member of Ford'scabinet-like executive committee, said he will bring a motion tothe next city council meeting asking Ford to take a leave ofabsence. Council does not have the power to force Ford out ofoffice.
"It is very disappointing to have the mayor of the City ofToronto admit to smoking crack cocaine," he told reporters. "Iwas disappointed at two levels: firstly that he did it, butsecondly that it took him so long to admit it."
Another motion circulating at City Hall would seek torestrict Ford's ability to remove people from his executivecommittee and other standing committees.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne voiced concern about theevents in Toronto, but said the province would not intervene.
"I am not going to pre-empt what the mayor may or may notdo," she told reporters. "I have said I'm concerned, the policeservice and the judicial system have to take action, but themayor will have to make his decisions about what is appropriateright now... That's his responsibility."
'HAMMERED' AT FESTIVAL
Ford has already apologized for "mistakes" in his past,admitting to being "hammered" at a street festival this summerand drunk at City Hall after-hours on St. Patrick's Day lastyear. All four big Toronto newspapers, including theright-leaning Toronto Sun, have urged him to quit.
"I don't even remember," Ford said on Tuesday of his druguse. "After some of the stuff that you guys have seen me, thestate I've been in. It's a problem."
In May, when the Toronto Star newspaper and the Gawker mediablog first reported the existence of the video, Ford said hedoes not use crack cocaine, and that he could not comment on avideo he has not seen.
Blair said on Thursday that police had obtained a video"consistent" with the Gawker and Star accounts, recovering thevideo from a deleted hard drive scooped up as part of awide-ranging drug probe.
But that video did not in itself support laying chargesagainst the mayor, Blair said.
Ford on Tuesday repeated a plea to the police to release thevideo, which he told the Toronto Sun was probably "not pretty".
Contacted after Ford's admission on Tuesday, a policespokeswoman said: "The information will be passed on toinvestigators."
Ford's predicament is reminiscent of former Washington D.C.mayor Marion Barry, who was infamously caught smokingcrack-cocaine on a videotape in a Washington hotel during an FBIsting.
COUNCIL SUPPORT WANING
Ford's personal life made headlines even before he waselected mayor.
In 2006, when he was a member of city council, Ford causedwhat the Canadian Broadcasting Corp called "a drunken ruckus"during a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game, shouting obscenitiesand insults until he was ejected.
In 2008, police charged him with assault and threats to hiswife, but then withdrew the charges, citing inconsistencies inher story. Ford maintained his innocence, and the two laterreconciled.
Despite the turmoil and despite his shrinking councilsupport, Toronto's "weak mayor" system has meant that it's beenmostly business at usual at City Hall.
Under the system, the mayor must secure council support formost measures. If council votes against his wishes, Ford has nopower of veto.
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