June 30, 2014 - 5:01 AM
TORONTO - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is set to return Monday to the intense public glare from which he has been relatively absent for two months since he was forced to seek help amid fresh allegations of drinking and drug use.
Ford has already been spotted north of Toronto in a Barrie, Ont., clothing store, where he posed for some pictures that were posted on Instagram.
A spokeswoman for the shop said Ford was there on Saturday afternoon, but gave no other details.
Ford plans to resume his mayoral duties -- curtailed by city council in November following his "drunken stupors" and crack-cocaine admissions -- on Monday afternoon, according to a letter he sent to the city clerk's office.
But with less than four months left in the term, the bulk of the renewed Ford attention will likely be focused on his bid to win another four years in office. His city councillor brother-turned campaign manager Doug Ford has indicated that the mayor will also return to fighting for re-election in the Oct. 27 municipal vote.
Doug Ford has also said the mayor will make a statement upon his return, but won't field any questions.
The embattled mayor's recent rehab stint likely won't have entirely pressed the reset button on the controversies he left in his wake.
In addition to an ongoing police investigation and lingering questions about the circumstances of his admitted drug use, Ford will also return to a new ethics complaint. The group
Democracy Watch filed a request Friday with the city's integrity commissioner, asking her to investigate media reports that both Ford brothers allegedly lobbied on behalf of two companies with ties to their family's label business.
Ford left for rehab just hours after the Globe and Mail reported April 30 that a drug dealer had shown two of its reporters a new video of Ford allegedly smoking what was said to be crack. The Toronto Sun published audio around the same time of Ford at a bar making anti-gay remarks, using an ethnic slur, and saying he would like to "jam" a rival female mayoral candidate.
Until then, Ford had vehemently denied over the previous year that he had a substance-abuse problem. He publicly swore off alcohol late last year, then was forced to admit he had been drinking in a videotaped incident in January in which he used Jamaican swear words, but called it a "minor setback."
Several city councillors have remarked at how calm city hall has been in Ford's absence, though the mayor didn't entirely vanish from the headlines.
A Washington think-tank held a symposium to explore how Canada's largest city ever elected Ford.
A city hall security report was released showing that Ford appeared intoxicated when he received an after-hours visit from a woman at his office just days before announcing he would enter rehab.
And an open casting call was held for "Rob Ford The Musical: The Birth of a Ford Nation."
Just days after he left for rehab, Ford himself gave an interview to the Toronto Sun in which he pronounced it "amazing" and said he was making calls to constituents -- something addiction experts have said would be highly unusual in a treatment program.
Ford's hasty exit sparked widespread speculation about where he was enrolled in rehab, then when Ford himself turned up in the cottage country town of Bracebridge, Ont., a nearby facility confirmed he was being treated there. But his ventures into town -- as documented by social media users who posed for photos with Ford -- prompted questions about whether he truly was a rehab in-patient.
Also since Ford has been away, his friend Alexander Lisi had a trial date set for next year on drug charges that police laid during their investigation of the mayor. A preliminary inquiry for Lisi was also set for next year on a charge of extortion related to alleged attempts to retrieve the original video of Ford appearing to smoke crack cocaine.
That means the infamous video likely won't come out in court at least until well after the municipal election.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014