Drug-taking Toronto mayor poses dilemma for Canadian government

Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:21pm EST
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By David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Toronto's crack-smoking Mayor Rob Ford is a headache Canada's right-leaning government could do without.

Lambasting Ford, a political ally who also admits he drove a car after drinking alcohol and bought illegal drugs, could cost the federal Conservatives valuable support in Toronto's suburbs.

But keeping quiet about his drug use could open the government up to charges of hypocrisy, given its tough-on-crime agenda, which includes mandatory minimum sentences and reducing privileges for prisoners.

Government ministers have so far responded to the right-wing mayor's admissions and apologies with little more than lukewarm criticism, clearly hoping that the issue will have faded by the next federal election in 2015.

Ottawa has no power to remove Ford from power even if it wanted to.

"They don't want to alienate anybody, especially Ford's constituency, which are the ... suburban areas where they've built their majority and want to hang onto it," said University of Toronto politics professor Nelson Wiseman.

"Those are the constituencies that are the tipping point between forming a government and not forming a government."

Some Conservative ministers are trying to turn the Ford controversy to their party's advantage by attacking Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who admits he has smoked marijuana since entering Parliament.   Continued...

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford shown during a special council meeting at City Hall in Toronto November 18, 2013. REUTERS/Aaron Harris