Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has launched his re-election campaign, acknowledging the crack-cocaine scandal that has brought him international attention and promising to tackle city hall spending.
Ford, whose authority was trimmed last year by a city council fed up with his blunders, took over a massive convention
centre in Toronto’s west end for the event on Friday, hawking bobble-head dolls of himself to raise funds ahead of the election on October 27.
First elected mayor in 2010 on a cost-cutting platform, Ford has become indisputably the most famous leader in the city’s history, and continues to poll relatively strongly in spite of a scandal that prompted staffers to desert him and has cost him nearly all of his allies on city council.
“There have been some rocky moments over the past year. I have experienced how none of us go through life without making mistakes,” he told a crowd of more than 1,000 supporters, before launching into a speech trumpeting his efforts to “cut the gravy” at city hall, the Reuters news agency reported.
“Four years ago I stood before you with this pledge. I pledged to respect taxpayers. I pledged to stop the gravy train.
I pledged to stop elites who would take money out of your pocket and put it in theirs,” he said, surrounded on a stage by his wife, two children, siblings and mother.
“I stand before you four years later and say I have kept those promises.”
At the front of the room a red fire truck was emblazoned with Ford’s oft-repeated claim that he has saved taxpayers C$1bn ($900,000).
Ford first hit international headlines last May when the Toronto Star newspaper and website Gawker both reported the
existence of a video of Ford smoking crack cocaine.
In November, he admitted smoking the drug “while in a drunken stupor,” while police revealed around that time they had been watching Ford for months after his name surfaced in a drug investigation.
Police have not charged Ford with anything, but his public image has continued to take hits, as videos have surfaced of the mayor ranting drunkenly about various subjects, including the chief of police.
Despite the scandal and the measures the council took to transfer much of his authority to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly,
recent poll numbers show Ford to be in a solid second place in the race for mayor.