Mayor Rob Ford, left, confronts Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong at a city council meeting in Toronto on Nov. 13, 2013, during a debate on a motion calling for Ford to step aside.(Photo: Nathan Denette, The Canadian Press, AP)
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, questioned by a city council debating a motion Wednesday urging him to step aside, acknowledged buying illegal drug and said his infamous crack-smoking incident was "sheer stupidity" that would not happen again.
"I ask forgiveness, I have apologized, I want to move on, that's all I can say right now," Ford said.
At one point, Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a former Ford ally, asked the 44-year-old mayor point blank if he had purchased illegal drugs in the past two years. After a pause of almost nine seconds, the mayor replied, "Yes, I have."
"I understand the embarrassment that I have caused. I am humiliated by it," he said.
The embattled mayor, who took office three years ago, strongly rejected a direct appeal by several council members to step aside, saying he has always carried out his duties and would continue to do so.
"I'm most definitely keeping this job," he said. "I am not leaving here. I'm going to sit here and going to attend every meeting."
Ford, mayor of Canada's largest city, said he had "no one else to blame but myself" for a crack-smoking incident during a drunken stupor, but that it would never happen again.
"I asked for forgiveness, I have apologized, I want to move on," he told the council members. "That's all I can say right now."
Council member Jaye Robinson opened the often heated session by presenting a petition signed by 30 of the 44 city council members asking the mayor to step down temporarily.
The petition was then formally accepted by the council on a 41 to 2 vote. "Our city's reputation has been damaged," she said, the CBC reports. "Together we stand to ask you to step aside and take a leave of absence."
The packed council chamber erupted with applause when Robinson ended her speech, saying "Let's get on with city business."
The petition reads in part:
Toronto is distracted and for good reason. Our city's reputation has been damaged and continues to suffer, and it has become difficult to focus on the pressing and substantive issues facing City Council. Today we stand together to ask that you step aside and take a leave of absence to address your challenges privately, outside of the public eye.The council voted 41-2 to accept the letter, then took up a formal motion by council member Minnan-Wong, a longtime Ford ally turned critic, that also called on Ford to apologize for misleading the public and to cooperate with a police investigation.
The mayor, who snacked on slices of apple during the debate, was jovial heading into the council chambers The Toronto Sun reports. "We're gonna have some fun today," he told reporters.
But the debate frequently turned heated, with people on all sides shouting, prompting Speaker Frances Nunziata to urge council members to "be civil" and "respect each other."
During one exchange, Minnan-Wong told the council that the mayor, en route to the council chambers, had stepped in front of him in a threatening manner and demanded that Ford apologize.
In the background, the mayor's brother, City Council member Doug Ford, shouted, "You're too much, brother."
The mayor of Canada's largest city also protested, saying, "I did not threaten him in any way, shape or form."
At another point, Ford said he would not speak to police, on advise of his attorney, about their investigation into corruption, drug use and extortion.
Ford, who took office in December 2010, has refused to step aside despite immense political pressure. He says voters should determine his political fate when he is up for re-election in 2014.
The debate by the council, which does not have the power to remove Ford from office, follows months of growing scandal stemming from a report by the U.S. website Gawker and The Toronto Star that Ford had been caught on video smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine.
The mayor initially denied the charge and questioned the existence of a video.
Last week, after Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair announced that investigators had recovered two videos, including the notorious crack cocaine tape, Ford acknowledged his actions, and said that he was in a drunken condition.
Police have not released either video, saying they are evidence for use in an extortion case against the mayor's "close friend" Alexander Lisi.
Within days of the police statement a second video emerged, this one showing a clearly inebriated Ford stumbling around a room, gesticulating angrily. "I'm gonna kill that (expletive) guy. I'm telling you, it's first-degree murder," the visibly agitated says on the video.
Ford later acknowledged his actions on the video, saying he had been "extremely, extremely inebriated."