Rob Ford didn't attend the annual meeting for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities over the weekend, but he was certainly a hot topic of conversation at the event.
According to several councillors who attended the meeting of the country's municipal leaders in Vancouver, the drug allegations dogging Toronto's mayor were on everybody's lips during the four-day conference.
"Every time a session opened, there was a joke about Toronto. You spent half your time explaining the scandal," says Adam Vaughan, one of 18 councillors who attended. "It was aggravating ‘cause you're there to learn instead of explain what's going on in Toronto."
Vaughan says he used to bashing Canada's largest city being something of a national pastime, but the jibes went beyond normal good-natured teasing.
"You're used to Toronto being made fun of with the Leafs and the whole bit, but it was a little much at times. It's not good for the city."
"There was a lot of joking or being the butt of jokes," agrees Councillor Paula Fletcher, another attendee. She said other delegates constantly asked, "What's happening in your city? What's going on with your mayor?"
Some municipal leaders were harsher on Ford than even his staunchest critics here at home.
In an interview with CTV News the mayor of Saanich, B.C., Frank Leonard, said that the scandal surrounding Ford was "an embarrassment to the country."
According to the channel, when he was asked if Ford should have attended the conference, Leonard, who has been mayor of Saanich for 17 years, replied, "I don't know if he should be at a conference or in jail."
Ford has heavily criticized council members for flying out to the conference on the taxpayers' dime. On Sunday during the weekly radio show he co-hosts with his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor said he had no problem with a small group of councillors making the trip, "but then 18 councillors flew out Thursday."
"That really burns me up," he added.
Doug Ford claimed that attendees were staying in a "five-star hotel" and "drinking margaritas at the side of the pool."
The Fords pegged the cost to the city at $100,000, but city staff confirmed to NOW that the conference will be paid for out of a $60,000 fund dedicated to intergovernmental business trips. The cost per councillor is estimated at $2,500 to $4,500, depending on the price of the flight and hotel each council member chooses.
Some councillors argue that instead of criticizing his colleagues for attending the conference, the mayor should take part. Vaughan describes the FCM annual meeting as a "school" for councillors, where they can learn how other cities deal with common problems like affordable housing and poverty.
Ford has never been to the event since taking office in 2010, and some believe he is missing out on an opportunity to add Toronto's voice to the chorus of big city mayors advocating for more federal funding for things like infrastructure and transit.
"If we want to build these big projects that the mayor talks about without raising property taxes, that's what you have to do," says Mike Layton. "You have to advocate on behalf of the constituents and get those resources and demand them [from Ottawa], and we haven't been doing that."
Meanwhile, back on the home front, the pressure on Ford to address the drug allegations against him appears to be easing. Since reports first surfaced nearly three weeks ago of a video that allegedly shows him smoking crack cocaine, reporters have staked out his office on a daily basis hoping to get a comment.
Although he held a press conference on the scandal on May 24 in which he denied he uses crack, Ford has consistently refused to answer questions from the media on the affair.
But Tuesday afternoon, for the first time since the scandal broke, the media packed up their cameras and left City Hall without waiting for him to leave work.
Tuesday evening the editor of Gawker, one of three reporters who claimed to have seen the video, reported that the source connecting him to the its owners now says it is "gone."