Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, plunged into a scandal over his crack use, is a colourful character, known as much for his drunken public antics as for his populist anti-tax stance.
In confessing to having once smoked crack cocaine – albeit “probably in one of my drunken stupors” – the rambunctious mayor of Canada’s largest city appeared unusually contrite.
Since he was elected in 2010, Rob Ford has starred in multiple escapades, most linked to his admitted abuse of alcohol.
Born on May 28, 1969 in a suburb of Toronto, a commercial and financial hub on the shores of Lake Ontario, Ford is the youngest of two brothers and a sister in a relatively wealthy family.
His older brother Doug is his most loyal supporter at the municipal council, where they are separated by just a few chairs.
At 28 years old, he ran for the first time for Toronto’s municipal council, winning a seat three years later and elected mayor a decade later.
As a politician, Ford’s strategy has been to promote a populist agenda.
Strongly linked to the right, like his father, he is close to the conservatives at both the federal and provincial levels.
At the heart of his agenda is a populist defence of city taxpayers, a stance that has won him diehard support among a section of sub-urban voters now jokingly dubbed the “Ford Nation.”
After he was caught reading work documents while driving his own car, police encouraged him to accept a driver for his own security and the safety of others on the road.
“I think that’s a waste of taxpayer’s money,” the mayor retorted.
“A million people a day go to work in the city and they drive. They drive themselves. I don’t see why I am any different.”
His many binges also have made him a target, but he has steadfastly brushed off criticism, along with drunk driving and marijuana possession charges in Florida during a break from his 1999 mayoral campaign.
The admission of crack use may be Ford’s most embarrassing crisis to date, but he says he believes in redemption.
His polling numbers remain strong and he has pledged to win back the trust and support of Torontonians ahead of his next year’s re-election bid.