Questions around Rob Ford's drug use, public drunkenness and criminal buddies were front and centre at a mayoral get to know you session at Ryerson University Thursday.
The discussion came 24 hours after the first debate between the five leading candidates for mayor of Toronto. At Ryerson, Rob Ford, John Tory, Karen Stintz and David Soknacki took questions from the crowd of 400 students and from members of the public. Organizers say Olivia Chow turned down her invite because of a scheduling conflict.
While candidates drew criticism for only dancing on the edges of Ford's scandals the night before, Tory dove right in as he took the microphone for the first time on Thursday.
"It’s not acceptable to have a mayor who often shows up late and sometimes doesn't show up at all", said Tory. “And most troubling and unacceptable of all--a mayor who has eventually admitted to multiple and continuing relationships with convicted criminals and gang types."
Ford was asked by a student why he continues "to act in a way that attracts negative attention", pointing to a video of a swearing, seemingly intoxicated mayor outside City Hall just before St. Patrick's Day.
"I'm not perfect", replied Ford. "And I never said I was", he went on as the audience laughed. As he tried to return focus to his fiscal record, Ford was peppered with more questions from the audience and gave up on answering.
Later, moderator Ralph Lean took another shot at Ford's behaviour after-hours. "You appear to hang out with drug dealers",Lean noted. "Shouldn't the mayor of Toronto have a higher standard? Shouldn't the mayor of Toronto and Chief of Police be locking up this bad guys".
"I couldn't agree with you more", answered Ford. "I don't condone drug dealers. I don't condone crack cocaine. I don't condone that stuff." "I condone being the best mayor the city's ever had", Ford went on, garnering a combination of laughs, hisses and boos from the crowd.
A handful of people heckled the mayor as he again, tried to trumpet his economic record and to criticize his opponents, with Lean attempting to keep the peace.
In a separate discussion, John Tory dropped a one-liner that drew the loudest cheers of the night.
Asked by Lean about his less than stellar election track record versus his success as a businessman, Tory replied, "The mayor’s taking joy in the fact that I lost. You’ll have the experience soon enough."