Toronto police say they have obtained a video that appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking a crack pipe – a video he had claimed did not exist and has been at the core of a scandal that has Canada for months.
Police chief Bill Blair said yesterday that the video, recovered after being deleted from a computer hard drive, did not provide grounds to press charges.
Mr Ford, a populist mayor who has repeatedly made headlines for his bizarre behaviour, vowed not to step down.
Speaking outside the door his office, where visitors were free to check out the Halloween decorations, he said with a smile: “I have no reason to resign.”
He said he could not defend himself because the affair is part of a criminal investigation involving an associate, adding: “That’s all I can say right now.”
Toronto police discovered the video while conducting a huge surveillance operation into a friend and sometime driver suspected of providing Mr Ford with drugs.
The mayor faced allegations in May that he had been caught on video puffing from a glass crack pipe.
Two reporters with the Toronto Star said they saw the video, but it has not been released publicly. Mr Ford maintained he does not smoke crack and that the video did not exist.
The scandal has cast Canada’s largest city and financial capital in an unflattering light.
Mr Ford was elected mayor three years ago on a wave of discontent simmering in the city’s outlying suburbs.
Since then he has survived an attempt to remove him from office on conflict-of-interest charges and has appeared in the news for his increasingly odd behaviour.
Through it all, the mayor has repeatedly refused to resign and pledged to run for re-election next year.
But the pressure increased yesterday with all four major daily newspapers calling on him to resign.
Cheri DiNovo, a member of Ontario’s parliament, tweeted: “Ford video nothing to celebrate Addiction is illness. Mayor please step down and get help?”
Mr Blair said the video of the mayor “depicts images that are consistent with those previously reported in the press”.
He added: “As a citizen of Toronto I’m disappointed. This is a traumatic issue for citizens of this city and the reputation of this city.”
The police chief said the video will come out when Mr Ford’s associate and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, goes to trial on drug charges.
Lisi now also faces extortion charges for trying to retrieve the recording from an unidentified person.
Mr Blair said authorities believed the video is linked to a property in Toronto, referred to by a confidential informant as a “crack house” in court documents in Lisi’s drug case.
The prosecutor in the Lisi case released documents showing they had rummaged through Mr Ford’s rubbish in search of evidence of drug use.
They show they conducted a massive surveillance operation monitoring the mayor and Lisi following drug use allegations.
The documents show that friends and former staffers of Mr Ford were concerned that Lisi was “fuelling” the Toronto mayor’s alleged drug use.
The police documents, ordered released by a judge, show Mr Ford receiving packages from Lisi on several occasions.
Mr Ford recently vouched for Lisi in a separate criminal case, praising his leadership skills and hard work in a letter filed with the court.
The letter was part of a report prepared by a probation officer after Lisi was convicted of threatening to kill a woman.
Mr Ford’s controversies range from the trivial to the serious: Walking face-first into a TV camera. Falling down during a photo op while pretending to play football. Being asked to leave an event for wounded war veterans because he appeared intoxicated, according to the Toronto Star. Being forced to admit he was arrested for marijuana possession in Florida in 1999, after repeated denials. Making rude gestures at people from his car.
“The mayor has said there wasn’t a video,” Toronto councillor Paula Fletcher said. “He has said there is a conspiracy against him. With chief Blair’s press conference I think that’s put to rest.”