TORONTO - A period of decidedly unCanadian scandal marked by outrageous, offensive, bizarre and frequently entertaining conduct took yet another circus-like twist Friday when an ailing Rob Ford ended his bid for re-election as mayor, choosing instead to run for city council.
Toronto voters, however, will still have the option to chose a Ford for a mayor as Rob Ford's councillor brother, Doug, entered the mayoral race in his stead.
As a crush of reporters and photographers tried to keep up with the developments, city hall officials confirmed the mayor had taken his name off the ballot for next month's vote just ahead of an official deadline to do so.
"People know me as a guy who faces things head on and never gives up," Ford said in a statement.
"Now I could be facing a battle of my lifetime and I want the people of Toronto to know that I intend to face this challenge head on."
Ford, who said his heart was "heavy" at having to end his mayoral bid to focus on his health, is instead running in his west-end ward, where his nephew Michael Ford had been registered to run before he pulled out Friday.
The mayor said in his statement that his brother had been by his side from the start and shared his vision.
The dizzying round of political musical chairs followed days of medical drama involving Ford, 45, whose admissions of crack-cocaine use, binge drinking and profanities have made him a household name across much of North America.
Ford had been admitted to hospital on Wednesday after complaining for months of abdominal pain.
After doctors discovered a "fair sized" tumour, they transferred him to a second downtown hospital on Thursday, where he underwent an biopsy on the growth and was slated to undergo further testing Friday.
Dr. Zane Cohen, an internationally recognized colorectal surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital, said it would be about a week before it was known whether the tumour was cancerous.
Discovery of the tumour came just over two months after Ford returned to office from a stint in rehab that followed a scandal-plagued year in which he was forced to admit to using crack cocaine in a "drunken stupor," was caught on video and audio recordings in profanity-laced rants, and became the target of an ongoing police investigation.
He narrowly survived a legal challenge that would have forced him out of office for breaching conflict-of-interest rules, and saw council strip him of most of his powers.
His litany of woes, gaffes and outrageous conduct made him an international celebrity and word of his illness garnered coverage around the globe.
Still, the often larger than life mayor — elected in 2010 on the strength of his cri-de-coeur of "it's time to stop the gravy train" — continued to campaign for re-election even as he trailed in polls for the Oct. 27 vote but nonetheless remained a viable candidate.
Ultimately, however, faced with the prospect of a cancer diagnosis and a long treatment regimen, Ford opted to step aside, leaving his so-called Ford Nation of die-hard followers to cast about for a new candidate.
Social media erupted at the news, sparking gleeful reaction along with expressions of regret.
"Man I actually feel so bad for Rob Ford," one person tweeted.
"I was really looking forward to watching Rob Ford be defeated by a democratic vote," another tweeted. "Sadly, our city will now be deprived of that moment."