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December 20, 2014

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Toronto mayor, stripped of powers, vows to fight

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The Canadian Press, Chris Young / AP

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford attends a council meeting as council members look to pass motions to limit his powers in Toronto on Monday Nov. 18, 2013.

TORONTO — Mayor Rob Ford said Toronto's City Council had no business stripping him of most of his powers over his admitted crack cocaine use and heaving drinking, implying in a television interview aired Tuesday that many councilors are no different from him.

The council voted overwhelmingly Monday in favor of slashing Ford's office budget by 60 percent and allowing mayoral staff to join the deputy mayor, Norm Kelly. Ford now effectively has no legislative power, as he will no longer chair the executive committee, though he retains his title and ability to represent Toronto at official functions.

In an interview broadcast on ABC's "Good Morning America" Tuesday, Ford accused city councilors of attacking him for personal reasons and suggested many of them were guilty of the same behavior he has admitted to.

"All they did was stab me in the back over issues, the same issues that I've admitted to that they do, but nobody knows about it," he said.

He again denied the had a serious problem with alcohol, though he said he was getting help from "health care professionals on a number of issues" and promised the public would see a difference in him in five months.

"Do I excessively drink once in a while, or it's called binge drinking whatever term you want to use? Yes I have. I absolutely have," Ford said.

Despite apologizing for his drug use and drinking, Ford has remained defiant in the face of pressure to resign since news reports emerged months ago that he had been caught on video smoking crack.

He and his brother, City Councilor Doug Ford, have frequently lashed out at journalists and politicians, demanding to know whether they have ever used drugs, gotten behind the wheel drunk or otherwise misbehaved.

The mayor has suggested in the past that other councilors are on drugs but that he is "not a rat" and will not name them.

The council session Monday was one of the stormiest in memory as the burly mayor argued with colleagues and members of the public and at one point knocked down a petite councilwoman as he charged toward one of his hecklers. Cries of "Shame, shame" came from the gallery.

The mayor, a conservative elected three years ago on promises to curb public spending and keep taxes low, vowed "outright war" to take on his critics in next year's election.

The debate Monday became heated after Ford paced around the council chamber and traded barbs with onlookers. The speaker asked security to clear the gallery and a recess was called, but not before Ford had barreled toward his detractors, mowing into Councilor Pam McConnell, who is in her 60s.

Another councilor asked Ford to apologize. Ford said he was rushing to the defense of his brother and accidentally knocked McConnell down.

The motion approved by the council was revised from an even tougher version to ward off potential legal challenges. The city's lawyer said the proposal does not render Ford "mayor in name only."

However, Ford asserted that he and his aides field tens of thousands of emails and phone calls yearly, and said the pared-down budget and staff would be inadequate.

The council does not have the power to remove Ford from office unless he is convicted of a crime. It pursued the strongest recourse available after recent revelations that Ford smoked crack cocaine and his repeated outbursts of erratic behavior.

Toronto, a city of 2.7 million people, has been abuzz with the Ford melodrama since May, when news outlets reported that he had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine.

Recently released court documents show the mayor became the subject of a police investigation after those reports surfaced. Ford, who denied there was any incriminating video, now acknowledges the reports were accurate. Police said they had obtained a copy of a video that appears to show Ford puffing on a crack pipe, but did not release its contents because it is evidence in the case against Ford associate Alexander Lisi, who faces trial on drug and extortion charges.

In interviews with police, former Ford staffers have made further accusations, saying the mayor drank heavily, sometimes drove while intoxicated and pressured a female staffer to engage in oral sex. Ford spouted an obscenity on live television last week while denying the sex allegation.

In a TV interview Monday night for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Ford said he had only smoked crack cocaine once, calling it "an isolated incident." He denied that he has driven while drunk, but admitted that he had bought marijuana since becoming mayor.

The mayor declared that he was "finished" with alcohol.

"I've had a come-to-Jesus moment if you want to call it that," Ford said. "Just the humiliation and the belittling and the people I've let down. And it's all because of alcohol. Excessive, stupid, immature behavior and that's it."

Ford and his brother Doug made their debut on a current events television show broadcast Monday night called "Ford Nation" on the conservative tabloid Sun News Network in Canada.

Rob Ford told viewers they would see a change in him over the next few months. "I'll take a urine sample right now," Ford said on the show, which was taped Sunday.

Associated Press writers David Martin and Charmaine Noronha contributed to this report.

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