The Toronto Star asks: does Rob Ford have a drinking problem?
The Toronto Star took aim at Rob Ford once again this morning with a lengthy story alleging that the mayor struggles to control his binge drinking. While the deeply reported article contains plenty of specific details—some bordering on lurid—from current and former staffers, none of them were willing to put their names in print. Below, we round up the story’s biggest claims.
1. Ford controls his drinking when the stakes are highest
Past and present staffers told Star reporters Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan that Ford was in control during the mayoral campaign, but that his drinking seemed to ramp up after he took office and worsened as his clout on council began to wane in fall 2011. Apparently Ford returned to his best behaviour during his recent conflict-of-interest case, at least in part because of pressure from councillors in his circle.
2. Staff members have tried—and repeatedly failed—to get Ford help
Ford’s team, concerned for the mayor and exasperated by his missteps, has made several failed attempts to get Ford into treatment over the past two years. His usual response, according to a former staffer: “I’m good. Don’t worry about it.” Some of the proposals were rather elaborate, it seems, including a plan to stage a vacation for Ford and his wife while he went to a rehab centre.
3. Staff rarely actually see the mayor drinking
After reports surfaced about Ford’s allegedly inappropriate encounter with Sarah Thomson earlier this month, the mayor’s chief of staff Mark Towhey insisted the mayor didn’t drink any alcohol at the event. The Star reporters offer one potential explanation: “perplexed staffers have said they rarely catch him drinking, fuelling suspicion that he binge drinks prior to events.”
4. The mayor was asked to leave a military ball in February after behaving strangely
Much of the story concerns Ford’s behaviour at The Garrison Ball, a charity gala recognizing the armed forces on February 23. The mayor arrived late, and was rambling, stumbling and slurring, according to several unnamed sources including an organizing committee member who said “he seemed either drunk, high or had a medical condition.” Councillor Paul Ainslie told the paper that he urged Ford’s chief of staff to get the mayor to leave, though he wouldn’t discuss why.
5. Ford still has a strong core of support
Several guests at the gala defended the mayor, including the chair of the Toronto Port Authority Mark McQueen. Ford himself told reporters the allegations are “nonsense” this morning, repeating his claim that The Star is filled with “pathological liars.” Doug Holyday and Doug Ford, meanwhile, both said that articles like this one are an attempt to detract from Ford’s performance as mayor. Regardless, one former staffer told the Star that if Ford were to publicly admit to a problem and seek treatment, his re-election team doesn’t believe it would hurt his chances in the next campaign.