Prime Minister's Office calls Rob Ford allegations 'troubling,' attacks Trudeau
The Prime Minister’s Office waded into the Rob Ford controversy for the first time Monday, issuing a brief statement calling the latest allegations of his drug and alcohol use “troubling.”
The federal Conservative government has remained largely silent as a scandal has engulfed one of its key political allies in Ontario. After months of denials, Ford recently admitted that he has smoked crack cocaine.
He also admitted in city council that he had purchased illegal drugs in the past year and to drinking and driving. And on live television, he made lewd comments about oral sex as he denied allegations contained in a court filing that he sexually harassed female staff.
On Monday, as city council voted to strip him of most of his powers, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s spokesperson released a four-line statement to the media in response to the controversy that did not mention Ford’s name, but called out a political foe who has made his own controversial statements about drugs.
“These latest allegations are troubling,” PMO spokesperson Jason MacDonald said of Ford.
“Our Government does not condone illegal drug use, especially by elected officials while in office, including Justin Trudeau. 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.”
Earlier this year, Trudeau acknowledged that he has smoked marijuana since being elected to the House of Commons in 2008, and has indicated that he favours legalizing the drug.
On Sunday, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said the Ford scandal is having a negative effect on the prime minister, who once hosted the mayor at his retreat at Harrington Lake and then later attended a barbecue at the mayor’s home.
"The Conservatives have been saying for years that Rob Ford's their guy," Mulcair said Sunday during an appearance in Toronto to campaign ahead of next week’s by-election in Toronto Centre.
"They're going to have to wear it now," he said, repeating that Ford should resign and get help.
As the House of Commons returned from a week-long break Monday, the Ford scandal came up only later in question period, when NDP health critic Libby Davies accused the federal government of denying drug addicts the treatment they need, in reference to a decision to introduce new regulations that prevent doctors from prescribing heroin to drug-addicted patients.
“It’s ironic that the only person suffering from addiction that the Conservatives seem to have compassion for is the mayor of Toronto,” Davis said, accusing the health minister of ignoring her own department’s research and “putting lives at risk.”
Eve Adams, parliamentary secretary to Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq did not respond to the Ford comment, but said a program that allows for some patients to access narcotics “was not intended to give dangerous drugs to addicts.”
“Our government’s position against the use of dangerous and addictive drugs is clear,” Adams said.
Later, Conservative Manitoba MP Robert Sopuck criticized Trudeau for telling a group of teenagers during a visit to the Sioux Valley First Nations school last week that while marijuana is dangerous for young people because their brains are still developing, legalizing it will help keep it out of children’s hands.
“Were the parents of the students at the Sioux Valley First Nations school in Manitoba told that the Liberal leader was going to promote marijuana legalization in front of their young children?” Sopuck asked toward the end of question period.
“Would the parliamentary secretary explain what our government is doing to protect children from illicit drugs?”
Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, replied by saying that discussing the legalization of drugs with children “is completely unacceptable and completely inappropriate.”
“The Liberal leader should immediately apologize to the parents in Brandon and to the parents across Canada,” Calandra said. “Being an overgrown flowerchild is no excuse for the remarkable poor display of judgment the leader showed.”
Last week, Justice Minister Peter MacKay called Trudeau’s talk in Manitoba “appalling.”
"We have no intention of decriminalizing marijuana. And he can shout this from the hilltops as much as he likes, but going before school children, in my view, crosses the line of appropriate behaviour for a federal leader."
Trudeau responded to MacKay’s comments with a statement of his own, saying the students applauded his comments and said the federal government is not doing enough to keep drugs out youths’ hands.
With files from The Canadian Press
Here's the full statement:
These latest allegations are troubling. Our Government does not condone illegal drug use, especially by elected officials while in office, including Justin Trudeau. 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.