Prime Minister’s Office wades gingerly into debate over Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

OTTAWA – The Prime Minister’s Office is piping up for the first time about Rob Ford, whose self-admitted drug and alcohol antics have made the mayor of Toronto a figure of infamy around the world.

The allegations against Ford, who admitted last week to having smoked crack cocaine “probably in one of my drunken stupors,” are “troubling,” said Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Conservative government has been largely mute on the international media circus unfolding in Toronto, in part because the Tories have previously allied themselves with the popular, straight-talking mayor.

Monday’s public acknowledgment came with a pointed reminder: Justin Trudeau, the popular and media-friendly Liberal leader, has admitted to using marijuana while in office.

“Our government does not condone illegal drug use, especially by elected officials while in office, including Justin Trudeau,” MacDonald said.

“We’ll continue to work with all levels of government on shared priorities, such as jobs and economic growth. That includes working with mayors and city councils, including the mayor of Toronto and Toronto city council.”

Trudeau made headlines in August when he admitted to having sampled a joint in past, at least once since becoming an MP. He’s also advocating the legalization of marijuana.

Harper has yet to publicly acknowledge the controversy raging daily over Ford and the crisis that has paralyzed city hall in Canada’s most populous city.

The Ford saga has taken unexpected turns on an almost daily basis in recent days, and Monday was no exception.

City council stripped Ford of much of his mayoral power, but not before an extraordinary debate marred by a shouting match with public spectators, an accidental bodycheck against a female councillor and a jarring comparison to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

As a shouting match erupted between Ford and members of the public, the besieged mayor seemed to charge a heckler but instead knocked down a female councillor, leaving her with a bruised lip.

The collision with Coun. Pam McConnell elicited yet another public apology from Ford, who at one point was seen making drinking and driving gestures at another councillor.

Ford’s original admission about smoking crack cocaine was linked to a single instance that was caught on video. But in excerpts of an interview aired on CNN’s “New Day” Monday, he admitted to having “smoked some crack sometimes.”

Ford told reporter Bill Weir he was “sick and tired” of the allegations, hence the admissions.

“I’m not going to run around and be phoney and lie,” Ford said. “I’m not going to have someone try to blackmail me and say they got videos of this.”

The mayor said he hadn’t smoked crack in over a year and again denied he’s an addict.

Last Wednesday, Ford admitted buying illegal drugs while in office, and a day later sparked outrage by making a crude sexual comment on live television.

He has steadfastly refused to take a leave or resign since reports surfaced in May of a video that appeared to show him smoking crack cocaine.

Police said they had recovered the video but have refused to release it.

— With files from Colin Perkel, Allison Jones and Keith Leslie in Toronto

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