Morning Edition's David Greene talks to Jamie Strashin of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's amazing political survival amid a scandal involving drugs and alcohol.
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
Let's follow up on this week's apology by the mayor of Toronto.
MAYOR ROB FORD: Friends, I'm the first one to admit: I am not perfect. I have made mistakes.
MONTAGNE: Mayor Rob Ford said, quote: I shouldn't have got hammered at a street party earlier this year. He added it's, quote, not realistic to say he'd never drink again.
INSKEEP: Ford's confession about drinking follows months of talk on the Internet about another matter. A video allegedly showed the mayor smoking crack.
MONTAGNE: For some time, Ford denied the video existed. Then it turned it up. Police say they found it while investigating the mayor's occasional driver, who's now been charged with extortion.
INSKEEP: Now Mayor Ford has asked the police chief to make the video public, saying Toronto residents deserve to judge for themselves what they see.
Our colleague David Greene spoke with Jamie Strashin, Toronto City Hall reporter for CBC Radio.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
As all of this has been unfolding, it's pretty startling, this whole episode. I mean how are people who live in Toronto reacting?
JAMIE STRASHIN: It's remarkable. There's never been such an intense interest in city politics, first and foremost. And Sunday, when he took to the airways on his radio show, there was a tremendous, tremendous amount of anticipation in the city. This story, it's really dominating conversation across the city. Everyone has a take on what the mayor should or shouldn't do.
But he made it very clear on his show he is resisting what's been appeals really from everyone, David, close to him politically, his family, to go away and get help, saying he doesn't need it; yes, he drinks too much on occasion, but he's promised to curb that. And he says he can go forward and continue to lead up until the next election, which is about a year from now.
GREENE: It sounds like he's quite a personality, even before these allegations about this video. I mean I've read that he's known as a real retail politics kind of guy. I mean he'll respond to small complaints in the city, like if a tree comes down in your backyard.
STRASHIN: This is a guy who, for more than a decade, was an outsider city councilor, represented a suburban ward in the city. You know, if there was a vote on council that was 43-1, he was always that one vote. You know, his mayoral campaign, people scoffed at it at the beginning. And his slogan was he was going to stop the gravy train at City Hall. And it resonated with people who thought that there was, you know, they were overtaxed from City Hall, that City Hall had lost its way with kind of peripheral issues. And he came along at the right time.
But his calling card has always been dealing with these kind of small issues. It would be the equivalent of, you know, Mayor Bloomberg showing up in Brooklyn on a Tuesday morning to look at a fence dispute between two neighbors. He's not a big-think policy kind of guy, and that's where he's really struggled at City Hall to move forward any kind of big policy pieces. And this only compounds things, 'cause right now his support on council is very, very limited.
GREENE: We should say that there were some criticisms in the past of how he lives his life.
STRASHIN: There's often been, you know, a lot of little things that have tripped him up along the way. You know, he had a run-in with allegedly giving the middle finger to another driver. You know, reading on the highway. He took a lot of heat for coaching a football team that took him away from key meetings at City Hall.
Other things are kind of coming out of the woodwork. We reported a story last week. A security document became available from City Hall security that outlined a fairly wild, drunken party that took place in the mayor's office on St. Patrick's Day in 2012. So a lot of other things are shaking out of the woodwork. And, you know, that's what's led to a lot of people on council and across the city to call for the mayor's resignation.
But he seems resigned to forging ahead. And, as he said, he wants to take it to the people in the next election.
GREENE: Well, I wonder. I mean in the United States I could imagine a recall vote being an option if people want to take action and remove a mayor from office. But that's actually not a legal option in Toronto.
STRASHIN: No. And that's kind of a thing that a lot of people are wrestling with, is, you know, what can council do. And the answer is, you know, really nothing. Unless you're convicted of a criminal offense, and then sentenced to a certain amount of time in jail, that's what would preclude you from being on the ballot. But other than that...
GREENE: And we should say he has not been charged with a crime...
STRASHIN: And he has not been charged with anything. And there's - and he's entitled to stay in office right now. And he's entitled to run again. He seems to be willing to forge ahead. But it's going to be very difficult for him.
GREENE: Jamie Strashin covers City Hall for the CBC in Toronto. Jamie, thanks so much for talking to us.
STRASHIN: Thanks, David. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.