TORONTO (AP) — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted during a heated City Council debate Wednesday that he had bought illegal drugs in the past two years, but he firmly refused to step down even after nearly every councilor stood up to ask him to take a leave of absence.

The mayor made the confession under direct questioning by a former ally, Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong. Ford publicly admitted last week that he smoked crack cocaine last year in a "drunken stupor," but his comments Wednesday marked the first time he acknowledged having bought illegal drugs.

Ford paused for a long time after Minnan-Wong asked him if he had bought illicit narcotics in the past two years.

Then Ford replied, "Yes I have."

"I understand the embarrassment that I have caused. I am humiliated by it," Ford said.

But he then turned defiant, saying he was not an addict of any sort and rebuffing suggestions from council members that he should seek help. He insisted he is a "positive role model for kids who are down and out."

"I'm most definitely keeping this job," he said. "I am not leaving here. I'm going to sit here and going to attend every meeting."

Moments earlier, all but two of the 43 councilors present for the debate voted to accept an open letter asking Ford to step aside. Most of them also stood up to urge the mayor to take a leave of absence.

Although it was a stark demonstration of his political isolation, the vote was symbolic because the City Council does not have the authority to force the mayor from office unless he is convicted of a crime.

"Together we stand to ask you to step aside and take a leave of absence," Councilor Jaye Robinson said, reading the open letter.

The packed council chamber erupted with applause when Robinson ended her speech, saying "Let's get on with city business."

Outside City Hall, hundreds of protesters changed "resign!" And organizers of Toronto's Santa Claus Parade asked that Ford not walk in the procession this year.

Ford's refusal to resign has confounded the City Council, where many members agree that his erratic behavior — from public drunkenness to threatening to kill someone in a videotaped tirade — has consumed Toronto's politics and undermined efforts to tackle other challenges.

But with no clear legal path to force him out, the Council is grasping for ways to shunt the larger-than-life leader aside and govern without him until next year's municipal elections.

The open letter was separate from a non-binding motion, also being debated Wednesday, that would formally call on Ford to take a leave of absence, apologize to Toronto residents for misleading them and cooperate with police.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, a Ford ally, announced shortly before the debate that he would support the motion, introduced by Minnan-Wong.

"I'm publicly advising the mayor to take some time," Kelly said.

One Ford ally, Councilor Giorgio Mammoliti, called the motion a waste of time. "We can't tell him what to do. Only the electorate can tell him what to do," he said.

Toronto police said last month they had obtained a long-sought video of Ford apparently smoking from a crack pipe but that it does not constitute evidence to charge him. Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said Ford's acknowledgement Wednesday that he bought illegal drugs would be passed on to investigators.

News reports of the crack video's existence first surfaced in May, but it has not been released publicly.

Another proposed motion would curtail Ford's powers, suspending his authority to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor and his executive committee, which runs the budget process. It likely won't be debated until Friday.

Toronto's mayor already has limited powers compared to the mayors of many large cities in the United States. He is just one voting member in the council and his power stems mostly from his ability, as the only councilor elected by citywide vote, to build consensus and set the agenda. That authority, many council members say, has evaporated in the crack scandal.

Ford, 44, was elected three years ago, riding a backlash from suburbanites who felt alienated by what they deemed Toronto's downtown-centric, liberal-dominated politics.

Despite his eroding political leverage, Ford promises to seek re-election. He maintains a hardcore of supporters he refers to as "Ford Nation," who applaud him for abolishing an annual $60 vehicle registration tax, squeezing valuable concessions out of the labor unions and other cost-saving measures.

Councilors have expressed concern that more revelations about the mayor's misdeeds will surface and plague city politics.

On Tuesday, a judge agreed to release more documents from a drug case against a friend and occasional driver of the mayor, Alexander Lisi. Previously released documents revealed the mayor's ties and covert meetings with Lisi.

Among the information to be released are allegations that staffers often bought alcohol for the mayor, according to Iain MacKinnon, a lawyer who represents media organizations who sought the release of the documents.

The documents also detail Ford's night out on St. Patrick's Day in 2012, when the mayor himself has said he was "out of control" drunk, MacKinnon told The Associated Press.

Ford was grilled by councilors about his links to a Toronto home where he was photographed with three suspected gang members. A police informant has described the residence as a "crack house" and police have said it relates to the crack video.

"That is not a crack house," Ford said. "Have you been in that house?"

Councilor Michael Thompson retorted: "I have no interest in being in that house. I am not a crack user."

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  • "Assgate"

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/08/sarah-thomson-rob-ford-facebook-photo_n_2836245.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">In March, former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson accused Rob Ford of grabbing her behind</a> while at an event. She <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/11/sarah-thomson-rob-ford-cocaine_n_2853183.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">later suggested the mayor was so out of it that she wondered if he was on cocaine. Ford has denied the accusations.

  • Goodbye, Hello

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/26/rob-ford-court-ruling-toronto_n_2191814.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">In November of 2012, an Ontario Superior Court Judge ordered Rob Ford to be removed from office</a> for violating Toronto's Conflict-of-Interest Act. The ruling stemmed from Ford's participation in a council vote to recommend he repay donations that he solicited for his private football foundation using official city letterhead. After weeks of uncertainty about who would replace Ford, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/25/rob-ford-appeal-granted_n_2547358.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">mayor won his appeal</a>, allowing him to remain in power.

  • Football Follies

    <A href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/rob-ford-football">Ford's role as coach of a high school football team</a> has repeatedly landed him in hot water. From a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/05/rob-ford-ttc-bus-football_n_2076761.html">city bus used to ferry the team home</a> after a reported brawl, to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/16/rob-ford-to-testify-today_n_2143353.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">missed council meetings and court appearances</a>, Ford's gridiron exploits have made headlines again and again. Despite the controversy, Ford has maintained that he's not giving up his other job to focus on running the city.

  • Winnipeg, Windsor, What's The Difference?

    On a trade mission to Chicago, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/19/rob-ford-chicago-winnipeg-windsor_n_1896249.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">Ford infamously confused Winnipeg and Windsor</a>, a verbal stumble that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/25/22-minutes-rob-ford-video_n_1913744.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">prompted chuckles on both sides of the border</a>.

  • Falling Down

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/21/rob-ford-fall-gif-video_n_2170653.html">A video clip of Ford falling</a> while attempting to throw a football at a Grey Cup event was quickly turned into GIF image that went viral.

  • Driving Mr. Ford

    In October of 2012, a photo hit the web of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/14/rob-ford-reading-driving-car-gardiner_n_1776183.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">Ford reading while driving</a>. The mayor admitted to doing it, but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/21/rob-ford-driver-toronto_n_1819165.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">refused to hire a driver</a>, despite pleas from the police and political allies. The incident was far from the first Fordian fail on the road. The mayor has also been <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/07/26/ford-calls-alleged-middle-finger-incident-with-motorist-a-%E2%80%98misunderstanding%E2%80%99/">accused of giving a motorist the finger while driving</a> and has admitted that he <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2010/08/19/ford-marijuana-possession-charge489.html">pleaded guilty to refusing to provide a breath sample</a> after driving under the influence of alcohol in Florida.

  • Unfortunate Photo

    A photo hit the web in September of 2012 of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/26/rob-ford-nazi-photo_n_1707326.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">Ford posing with a neo-Nazi</a> dressed in a foreign military uniform. Ford explained that he was unaware of the man's political beliefs. At least <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/26/rob-ford-neo-nazi-picture_n_1708329.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">one major Jewish group said it was satisfied the mayor meant no harm</a>.

  • Cut The Waist

    For several months in 2012, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/18/rob-ford-weight-diet-toronto-ankle_n_1606268.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">Ford took part in a very public weight-loss campaign</a>. Weigh-ins staged before the press meant the mayor had nowhere to hide, and after some initial success, he actually started putting on pounds. Ford admitted to giving up soon after.

  • Confrontation With Reporter

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/02/rob-ford-toronto-mayor-star-reporter_n_1472929.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">Ford called the police in May of 2012 and alleged that Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale trespassed on his property</a>. Dale denied the allegations and said Ford approached him with a raised fist. Ford would subsequently refuse to speak with reporters from the Star or to co-operate with the paper in any way.

  • No Pride

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/18/rob-ford-gay-pride-parade-toronto_n_1434581.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">Ford has twice bucked tradition and refused to attend Toronto's Pride parade</a>, prompting widespread criticism.

  • Calling The Cops On Marg

    Late in 2011, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/10/24/rob-ford-cops-cbc_n_1029601.html?utm_hp_ref=robford">Ford called the police after Marg Delahunty (Mary Walsh) and the crew of CBC's satirical show "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" showed up at his home</a>. While other politicians have reacted with laughter when approached by Delahunty, Ford said the "ambush" at his family home crossed the line.