Profile: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford reacts to a video released of him by local media at City Hall in Toronto 7 November 2013

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The mayor of Toronto came to power an outsider, with strong backing from his suburban neighbourhood.

But now Rob Ford faces pressure to resign from former allies on the city council after admitting he smoked crack cocaine while severely inebriated.

The drugs confession is only one of the many episodes in a long saga of cringe-inducing behaviour from the mayor.

Mr Ford has refused to resign and leave the job he says he loves. He is even running for re-election.

"Our family has been through everything - from murder to drugs to being successful in business," Mr Ford once told the Toronto Star. "Nobody can tell me a story that can shock."

Family business
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford talks on his weekly radio show in Toronto 3 November 2013 Mayor Ford used his weekly talk show to discuss city issues - and attack critics

Rob Ford was born in May 1969 in Etobicoke, Ontario, now a diverse district in the west of Toronto.

His father Doug Ford Sr was a businessman and member of Ontario's provincial parliament.

The elder Mr Ford ran the successful printing firm Deco Labels and Tags. The Ford family still owns the company, and Mr Ford has served in senior management positions there.

Mr Ford attended Carleton University but did not graduate, instead returning home to care for his sister, a recovering heroin addict, according to a profile in Toronto Life magazine profile. Years later, an ex-boyfriend would shoot his sister in the face in her parents' home.

In 2000, Mr Ford married his long-time girlfriend Renata. They have two young children. Rarely seen in public, she has been dubbed the "invisible wife".

Mr Ford was charged with assaulting her in 2008 but the charge was dropped.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford ordered the press to leave his property

After a previous attempt, Mr Ford was elected to represent Etobicoke in 2000 in the city council. In that role, he gained a reputation for controversial remarks and an aversion to spending city money.

He ran for mayor with a promise to "end the gravy train" at city hall and to partially privatise rubbish collection services after a month-long strike.

In 2010 he was elected mayor with 47% of the vote, largely on the strength of his support in the outlying suburbs. His brother Doug Ford Jr replaced him on the council as representative of Etobicoke.

The rubbish privatisation was deemed a success, and Mr Ford continued to look for ways to trim the city's budget.

He also continued coaching a high school football team and lending his name to a foundation supporting the city's football programmes.

Soon he was criticised for missing part of a council meeting to coach the team and for an incident in which two city buses were cleared of rush hour passengers in order to transport his football team.

The mayor said he had nothing to do with the bus incident.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford addresses the media at City Hall as his brother city councillor Doug Ford, left, looks 5 November 2013 Councillor Doug Ford (left) is the mayor's most steadfast political ally

Later, he became embroiled in a conflict of interest row after he was accused of using the city of Toronto logo and leveraging his status to solicit funds for his football foundation.

The city council tried to sack him, but in January 2013 a Canadian court overturned the removal order.

After his crack admission, another video emerged showing Ford ranting drunkenly and threatening murder

Also since becoming mayor, he has been caught reading while driving on a city expressway, and once called the police when a comedian tried to film part of a popular television programme outside his home.

In March, the Toronto Star reported he had been asked to leave a military ball because its organisers thought he was inappropriately intoxicated. "It's an open secret at city hall that the mayor has battled alcohol abuse," the newspaper said.

Then, in May 2013 the Star and US gossip website Gawker reported their journalists had seen a video apparently showing Mr Ford smoking from a crack cocaine pipe while obviously intoxicated.

The Toronto mayor denied he was a crack user - but never denied using the drug in the past. Months later, police said they had gained possession of the video.

Rob Ford's troubled mayoralty

  • May 2013: Media report they have seen a video apparently showing him smoking crack cocaine
  • May / June: Mayor denies such footage exists, but multiple Ford staffers resign
  • August: He seems intoxicated in an official appearance at a street festival. Later, he tells media he has smoked "a lot of marijuana"
  • October: Alexander Lisi, a former driver for Ford, is arrested on drug charges; police say they have the drug video
  • 5 Nov: "I have smoked crack cocaine," the mayor admits, saying he did so "in a drunken stupor"
  • 7 Nov: A second video surfaces showing a foul-mouthed Ford threatening to kill an unspecified person
  • 13 Nov: He admits to buying drugs in the past two years; allegations emerge linking him to cocaine and prostitution
  • 14 Nov: Ford makes lewd comments about oral sex and says he might have driven while drunk
  • 17 Dec: Ford apologises again, this time for implying, falsely, a Canadian journalist was a paedophile
  • April 2014: Starts re-election campaign
  • May: Halts campaign to begin treatment for substance abuse, as more videos surface
  • 17 June: Announces he will return to work at the end of June

After the revelation, Mr Ford said he had "made mistakes" and said he would curb his drinking. Ultimately, he admitted to smoking crack cocaine, "probably in one of my drunken stupors".

And he dismissed calls to step down: "We must keep Toronto moving forward. I was elected to do a job and that's exactly what I'm going to continue doing."

The same week, another video of Mr Ford became public. The clip showed the Toronto mayor in a foul-mouthed rant during which he vows to rip out a unspecified person's throat.

The context of the clip is not clear, nor is the target of Mr Ford's wrath. He has said he was intoxicated when it was filmed and was "very embarrassed by it".

Doug Ford: "I'll continue to stand by my brother"

After the video was published, Mr Ford's mother and sister told a local television station his behaviour was unacceptable for a mayor, but said he had done good work for the city.

"It isn't like it has affected his work," said Mr Ford's sister, Kathy.

Asked whether she thought her brother was an alcoholic, she responded, "It depends on what you consider an alcoholic."

In April 2014, Mr Ford officially kicked off his re-election campaign. He will face four challengers in the 27 October election.

But other recordings of Mr Ford in an apparently intoxicated state surfaced, including in new audio recording of him making abusive comments about Councillor Karen Stintz, who is running for mayor, and other politicians.

Allegations have also surfaced in police documents that Mr Ford used racially abusive language, threatened staff, sexually propositioned a female colleague, and snorted cocaine in a restaurant. The mayor has denied all of it.

In May, Doug Ford said "sense of relief" as the mayor said he was seeking treatment for substance abuse. He went to a 30-day rehab programme in an unspecified location after turning back from the US after talks with border officials in Chicago.

But as the Toronto mayor returns to his office in June, it is unclear if the time off will convince residents to elect him to another term.

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