Ford grilled at debate over admitted crack cocaine use

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at the mayoral debate at hosted by the Ted Rogers School of Management at...

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at the mayoral debate at hosted by the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto Thursday March 27, 2014. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)

Maryam Shah, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:29 PM ET

TORONTO Mayor Rob Ford was grilled Thursday over his admitted crack cocaine use at the second major debate of the mayoral campaign.

The tough questions came a day after he squeaked through the first debate with nary a mention of his crack scandal.

But on Thursday night at Ryerson University, Ford couldn’t avoid the question — though he tried to dodge answering it directly and even came out against crack and drug dealers despite having admitted last November to using the drug and buying illegal drugs this term.

“You appear to hang out with drug dealers,” moderator Ralph Lean said to Ford.

“How do I get over the hurdle: Shouldn’t the mayor of Toronto have a higher standard?” Lean asked, questioning whether strong economic performance trumps “really bad behaviour.”

“I don’t condone drug dealers. I don’t condone crack cocaine. I don’t condone that stuff,” Ford said in response.

“But you know what Ralph, I condone being the best mayor the city’s ever had.”

The lecture hall — filled with hundreds of attendees, mostly students — then burst into laughter.

Ford tried to continue his answer about his track record — “I have produced results, you know I have” — but cries of “Answer the question!” and “Drug dealers! You were asked about drug dealers!” punctuated the air.

“I’ve answered it,” Ford continued. “I have a proven track record. It’s not the answer the left wing wants,” at which point he was interrupted again by noise from the audience.

If the televised mayoral debate on Wednesday lacked teeth, Thursday’s debate wasted no time in drawing blood. Four of the five major candidates — David Soknacki, Karen Stintz, John Tory and Ford — appeared, while Olivia Chow was absent due to a scheduling conflict.

Tory blasted Ford in his opening speech for being “a mayor who has eventually admitted multiple and continuing relationships with convicted criminals and gang-types, the very people he has pledged to keep off our streets.” The audience burst into applause.

After the debate, the mayor didn’t say much, instead issuing an open invite to his April 17 campaign launch.

“What they’re going to do, I’ve done it,” Ford said. “Let the people speak.”

His brother Councillor Doug Ford questioned the makeup of the crowd, saying “a lot of these people weren’t students.”

“I think a lot of these guys are a bunch of lefties that come downtown, that heckle, and Ralph Lean didn’t keep them in control,” he said.

Lean said the audience was 90 to 95% students.

He said he didn’t think Ford answered his tough question about economic performance vs. bad behaviour.

“And I would keep asking him and I hope people keep asking him,” Lean said.

The debate sparked an animated discussion from all four candidates on transit, job creation and the island airport.

Tory at one point acknowledged his past election losses.

“The mayor’s taking joy in the fact that I’ve lost,” he said. “You’ll have the experience soon enough.”

Stintz made it clear she wants to move the city forward.

“This shouldn’t be a referendum on Rob Ford and there’s nothing new we can learn about his behaviour and what I want to talk about is the city,” she said.

Soknacki took Ford’s claim of saving the city $1 billion to task.

“That $1-billion savings exists only in the imagination,” he said.


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