Toronto Mayor Ford takes leave to deal with alcohol problem

Thu May 1, 2014 6:08pm EDT
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By Allison Martell and Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford flew to the United States in a private plane on Thursday, a TV network said, a day after he said he would take a leave of absence from his job and his re-election campaign to seek treatment for an alcohol problem.

Global News reported that it had confirmed Chicago as Ford's destination but did not cite any sources. It said it was unclear whether he was staying in Chicago or if he was receiving help.

Ford's decision to take a leave of absence followed months of denials that he has a substance abuse problem and nearly a year after media reports surfaced that he appeared in a video smoking crack cocaine.

His departure followed a Globe and Mail report on Wednesday that it had seen a video shot last week that showed Ford using what appeared to be drugs.

On Thursday morning, TV cameras showed Ford, 44, leaving his house and getting into a car driven by another person. Earlier, a large suitcase was seen being taken out of the house and being put into a separate car.

Ford did not talk to reporters, but late on Wednesday he released a statement admitting that he has a problem with alcohol and saying that he would seek help to deal with it immediately. The statement did not specify where he planned to go or how long he'd be away.

Ford's brother, Doug Ford, a city councilor and manager of the mayor's re-election campaign, choked back tears on Thursday as he told reporters he had encouraged the mayor to take time off.

"As an older brother, I'm relieved that Rob has faced his problems and has decided to seek professional help," he said. Doug Ford often speaks for the mayor and has been his most ardent defender, often berating reporters who ask about his brother's personal problems.   Continued...

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford leaves his home in Toronto, Ontario May 1, 2014 in this still image taken from video provided by the CBC. REUTERS/CBC