TORONTO – Scandal-plagued Rob Ford didn’t shrink from the spotlight Sunday in the face of a key vote by his council that would effectively make him mayor of Toronto in name only.
Despite a plea from the CFL commissioner to stay away, an upbeat looking Ford showed up to watch his hometown Argonauts take on and lose to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for a berth in next week’s Grey Cup. He also gave an interview with an American media outlet to make his case.
Ford posed for pictures and hugged fellow spectators before taking a seat near a rival fan with a sign stating “Our mayor’s better than yours,” while those sitting behind him looked angry at having their view blocked by the commotion.
He was mobbed by people who mostly seemed supportive as he left the game.
Watch: Mayor Ford surrounded by spectators during the Toronto Argos game on Sunday.
Ford sounded a defiant tone in an interview with U.S. Fox News recorded just before the game, appearing unbowed at the prospect of a special city council meeting on Monday to vote on a motion further stripping away his mayoral authority.
“I’m going to continue to fight for the little guy. I’m going to continue to save taxpayers money. And if the councillors want to strip all my powers, that’s up to them,” he said, suggesting voters will have final say in next year’s municipal election.
Watch: Mayor Ford was confronted by reporters Sunday afternoon asking him questions about his new TV show with his brother, Toronto Councillor Doug Ford .
Ford repeated that he is not an alcoholic or a drug addict, adding that he’s getting professional help and hitting the gym “for two hours every day.”
City council can’t oust Ford, but Monday’s motion would make him little more than a figurehead, with control of his office and budget essentially placed in the hands of the deputy mayor.
Two previous motions that sailed through council Friday took away Ford’s ability to appoint key committee chairs and exercise emergency powers, as once-bitter rivalries between councillors melted away in the face of bombshell revelations about the mayor’s behaviour.
Ford has threatened legal action against the moves to water down his powers.
Watch: Mayor Ford interviewed by U.S. Fox News (video courtesy Fox News)
Any case to quash the bylaws – likely on the grounds council acted illegally or in bad faith – would be heard before Ontario superior court. Ford would also probably seek an injunction to put the bylaws on hold pending the outcome of the case, which could take many months.
In a roller coaster week at city hall, Ford admitted Wednesday he has purchased illegal drugs while in office, and one day later sparked outrage by making a crude sexual comment on live television that he later apologized for.
Ford has stubbornly refused to take a leave or resign ever since reports surfaced in May of a video that appeared to show him smoking crack cocaine. Police say they think they have recovered the video.
During a subsequent investigation, former staffers told police of his guzzling alcohol while driving, lewd and bizarre behaviour, and his consorting with suspected sex-workers. Ford has called the allegations outright lies and said he would take his former aides to court.
The Ford scandal has seen international news cameras join the fray at city hall, while the ongoing ordeal has become grist for the mill of television comics.
NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” was the latest to lampoon Ford, riffing on him not once but twice in its latest episode. The show opened with a parody of the mayor’s repeated public apologies for such things as smoking crack, buying drugs, driving after drinking and using vulgar language on live TV.
Ford has his own platform with a show on Sun TV Monday night.
Watch: After filming his new TV show, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford tries to leave quickly while being surrounded by reporters.