TORONTO – The widening scandal around Toronto mayor Rob Ford is starting to take its toll on the city's film industry.
The embattled politician last week voted against city funding for the Toronto International Film Festival.
The vote came as Toronto police made a series of predawn raids and arrests of gang members, including at a west Toronto apartment building where Ford is alleged to have been captured on a smartphone video smoking crack cocaine.
The Toronto mayor came out against giving $950,000 to TIFF as part of a municipal subsidy to help hold its annual September event that draws Hollywood and the global film industry to town.
The mayor was one of three local politicians that voted against an omnibus $7 million in subsidies for high-profile cultural organizations, with the annual grant package being approved by a commanding 32 votes.
TIFF successfully applied for the funding through the major cultural organizations program at City Hall, and the vote was held via the economic development committee.
The $950,000 represents around 2 percent of the TIFF operating budget.
A City Hall report that preceded the vote recommended approval of the TIFF subsidy as the annual September event “continues to be a major catalyst for downtown economic activity along the John Street corridor.”
Ford’s vote against TIFF came as Toronto police arrested and charged two men, Muhammad Khattak and Monir Kassim, who appeared in a photograph released by Gawker in mid-May when the U.S. gossip website first revealed the alleged existence of a video in which the Toronto mayor appears to be smoking crack.
A third man in the photo alongside Ford, Anthony Smith, was gunned down and killed outside a Toronto nightclub in late March.
Toronto police chief Bill Blair, in answering questions Friday about Project Traveller, a year-long guns-and-drug investigation that culminated in the raids and arrests, refused to tie Ford to his force’s youth gang crackdown.
“I must advise you that we are not able to disclose either the investigative methodologies that we have deployed over the course of this investigation or the evidence that has been obtained,” he told reporters, before adding evidence would eventually come out in court proceedings.
At the same time, police sources have told the Toronto media that they became aware through their Project Traveller investigation of the allegations surrounding the Ford crack-cocaine video before the revelations appeared last month in Gawker and the Toronto Star newspaper.
The Toronto mayor has consistently refused to answer questions about his association with the three suspected drug dealers in the infamous Gawker photograph as he attempts to weather the unfolding scandal.
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