Nathan Denette, Associated Press
TORONTO — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted during a heated City Council debate Wednesday that he had bought illegal drugs in the past two years, but he firmly refused to step down even after nearly every councilor stood up to ask him to take a leave of absence.
The mayor made the confession under direct questioning by a former ally, Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong. Ford publicly admitted last week that he smoked crack cocaine last year in a "drunken stupor," but his comments Wednesday marked the first time he acknowledged having bought illegal drugs.
Ford paused for a long time after Minnan-Wong asked him if he had bought illicit narcotics in the past two years.
Then Ford replied, "Yes I have."
"I understand the embarrassment that I have caused. I am humiliated by it," Ford said.
But he then turned defiant, saying he was not an addict of any sort and rebuffing suggestions from council members that he should seek help. He insisted he is a "positive role model for kids who are down and out."
"I'm most definitely keeping this job," he said. "I am not leaving here. I'm going to sit here and going to attend every meeting."
Moments earlier, all but two of the 43 councilors present for the debate voted to accept an open letter asking Ford to step aside.
Although it was a stark demonstration of his political isolation, the vote was symbolic because the City Council does not have the authority to force the mayor from office unless he is convicted of a crime.
"Together we stand to ask you to step aside and take a leave of absence," Councilor Jaye Robinson said, reading the open letter.
The packed council chamber erupted with applause when Robinson ended her speech, saying "Let's get on with city business."
Outside City Hall, hundreds of protesters changed "resign!" And organizers of Toronto's Santa Claus Parade asked that Ford not walk in the procession this year.
Ford's refusal to resign has confounded the City Council, where many members agree that his erratic behavior — from public drunkenness to threatening to kill someone in a videotaped tirade — has consumed Toronto's politics and undermined efforts to tackle other challenges.
But with no clear legal path to force him out, the Council is grasping for ways to shunt the larger-than-life leader aside and govern without him until next year's municipal elections.
The open letter was separate from a non-binding motion, also being debated Wednesday, that would formally call on Ford to take a leave of absence, apologize to Toronto residents for misleading them and cooperate with police.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, a Ford ally, announced shortly before the debate that he would support the motion, introduced by Minnan-Wong.
"I'm publicly advising the mayor to take some time," Kelly said.
Minnan-Wong said he would drop another proposal to ask the province of Ontario to pass legislation to remove the mayor from office if he refuses to take a leave. Other councilors had expressed concern that asking the provincial government to intervene would set a dangerous precedent.
Councilor Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, heckled Minnan-Wong throughout the debate.
One Ford ally, Councilor Giorgio Mammoliti, called the motion a waste of time. "We can't tell him what to do. Only the electorate can tell him what to do," he said.
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