Hundreds of people have protested outside Toronto City Hall, calling on Mayor Rob Ford to resign as he returned to work after admitting that he once smoked crack cocaine.
After months of denials and amid reports of video evidence, Ford confessed on Tuesday that he had used the highly addictive drug.
At a later press conference, Ford vowed to stay on and announced a re-election bid for next year, asking voters to decide then whether or not he should keep the highest office in Canada’s largest city.
“Something’s got to be done. To me, it’s like a Shakespearean play happening, and everyone knows how this is going to end,” said Les Williams, a 59-year-old who works in the film industry, on Wednesday.
He said the mayor’s personal life was distracting from the real issues facing the city and the work that he should be doing.
“I feel sorry for his wife and his family, to go through this,” said Williams.
Elizabeth Patitsas, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, said that she was worried that Ford’s substance abuse problem would taint the city’s reputation.
“When a mayor does something that embarrassing or humiliating to the city… you expect them resign or at least take a leave,” said Patitsas.
Protesters left chalk messages on a wall demanding Ford step down.
But City Hall workers chastised the protesters as they headed to the office.
“All politicians are doing what he’s doing. He just got caught,” said Dean Giannakopoulos, citing corruption in the US city of Chicago as an example.
“Who are we kidding? We hold politicians on such a high pedestal, like they’re angels, but they’re not,” said Giannakopoulos, 29.
Torontonians who did not attend the rally largely echoed the protesters’ concerns in interviews, letters to newspaper editors and in call-in radio shows.
Recent polling, however, has shown an uptick in support for the mayor.
Journalists maintained a vigil outside Ford’s office, seeking more answers about the 90-second clip at the centre of the scandal reportedly showing the mayor lolling back in a chair in a room, inhaling from what appeared to be a glass pipe.
But Ford slipped past the throngs into his office using a back stairway.
Earlier, one of Ford’s long-time policy advisers quit, becoming the seventh senior official to leave the mayor’s office since May over the controversy, including his chief of staff.