For the first time since returning from rehab 17 days ago, Rob Ford paused Thursday and took questions from the City Hall press gallery about his drug and alcohol use. He took them - but didn't really answer them.
Following a press conference about what the mayor describes as overspending by Waterfront Toronto, Ford was asked when was the last time he drank alcohol or used drugs.
He wouldn't answer but instead, in what sounded like a prepared response, said, "A lot of people really wish that I'm gonna fail, that I'm going to drink, and that I'm going to do drugs. Unfortunately that wish will not come true. That wish, guaranteed, will not come true because I'm as sober as a judge."
The mayor also hinted that he is no longer working with his "sobriety coach" Bob Marier, who hasn't been seen with Ford in recent days. Although the mayor's bother Doug Ford told reporters that Marier was still counselling Rob, the mayor told reporters that he has "moved on to helping other people."
Mayor Ford, who was at a west end hospital earlier in the day for what his brother said was a broken toe, suggested he would be fine with or without Marier's help. "I can assure you that Rob Ford is not going to fail. Rob Ford is not going to touch alcohol. I have had my past, I am moving forward in a positive direction," he said.
Ford deflected questions about whether he was on something Wednesday when he attended the two-year anniversary of the Danzig mass shooting. Television footage from the event shows the mayor speaking slowly and appearing lethargic. He seemed similarly lacking in energy on Thursday but declared "I'm as healthy as a horse."
The conference took an sombre turn when a reporter asked about Georgia Walsh, a seven-year-old girl who was killed in a traffic accident Wednesday south of Eglinton at Millwood and Bayview. The reporter said that local residents had been complaining about safety hazards at the intersection long before the fatal collision, which the mayor took as an opportunity to slam supporters of the Eglinton Connects plan to reconfigure the major east-west road.
"I don't know how I would carry on if I lost my daughter. My heart bleeds for this family and any other family that have lost a loved one, especially a child," Ford said. "I do not support, I think I made it quite clear, I do not support reducing the lanes of traffic on Eglinton, going from five lanes to two lanes because of what exactly I said at council, because the people are going to go into the side streets. And that's exactly what happened."
"Now, other candidates supported [Councillor] Josh Matlow on TV and said he supports the motion. Well, I don't support Josh Matlow."
Reached for comment, Matlow was livid that the mayor would use a child's death to talk about politics, but refused to respond to Ford on the record.
The mayor called the press conference in response to news reports Thursday about Waterfront Toronto spending $600,000 on a public washroom at Cherry Beach. Ford ran successfully in 2010 on a pledge to reduce government spending and has latched onto the cost of redeveloping Toronto's lakeshore in an apparent attempt to reprise his previous campaign.
He said Thursday the washroom report was the "final straw" and called for Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell to resign. The mayor doesn't have the authority to fire Campbell, however.
Waterfront Toronto responded by issuing a press release asserting that the agency is "accountable and transparent." It said that the federal, provincial, and municipal governments each appoint four members to its board, and that one of the city's seats is reserved for the mayor or his designate.
"Every year Waterfront Toronto obtains the approval of all three levels of government for its annual capital plan, including the priority projects and budgets," the release says.
The agency maintains that the washroom was more expensive than usual because it was built on remediated industrial land and there are no sewer lines in the area.
The Cherry Beach facility was the second Waterfront Toronto project Ford has attacked this month. In a TV interview last week he falsely claimed that council had spent "$1 million on rocks and umbrellas" for Sugar Beach during his two-month leave of absence. In fact the project was completed in 2010.
Ford's press conference was held in the large member's lounge at City Hall and was open to all media. The mayor's office barred some outlets, including NOW Magazine, from his first post-rehab conference two weeks ago, but last week council approved motion making it against city policy to exclude members of the press gallery from any media event on city property.