Calls for resignation: How can a mayor be removed from office in Canada's largest city?
Published Wednesday, November 6, 2013 4:55PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 6, 2013 5:16PM EST
As the fallout from Rob Ford’s stunning crack confession continues, some people are questioning whether he should continue on as mayor of Canada’s largest city.
One day after the Toronto mayor admitted to reporters he smoked crack cocaine about a year ago, probably while in a “drunken stupor,” a number of city councillors are suggesting that he step aside, at least temporarily, and get some help -- calls that Ford has so far rejected.
“Folks, I have nothing left to hide. I would do anything, absolutely anything, to change the past. But the past is the past and we must move forward,” he said Tuesday. “In 2010, I made a commitment to Toronto voters. I have delivered on that commitment and I will continue to deliver on that commitment …”
Speaking to reports Wednesday morning, Coun. Janet Davis said Ford has “lost power and legitimacy” at city hall.
“Quite frankly, we have to figure out a way to work around him,” she said. “Maybe there are some rules that we can agree to that will form some kind of firewall between the mayor, the mayor’s office and his executive and council.”
Council has no legal means to remove Ford from office. Beyond the mayor losing his Canadian citizenship or ceasing to be a Toronto resident, there are only three options that would see him lose his post:
If Ford stops showing up …
Under the City of Toronto Act, the office of a city council member becomes vacant if that person is absent from council meetings for three successive months without council’s authorization.
That seems a highly unlikely option for Ford.
Even before his stunning admission on Tuesday, some suggested Ford should take a leave of absence, stepping away from both the media spotlight and his mayoral duties to let the dust settle.
But Ford has repeatedly rejected those calls since May, when allegations of the video first surfaced on U.S. website Gawker and in The Toronto Star.
His statement Tuesday confirmed he has no plans to abandon office – and that he intends to run again in the 2014 election.
“There is important work that we must advance and important decisions that must be made,” Ford said.
“For the sake of the taxpayers of this great city … we must keep Toronto moving forward. I was elected to do a job and that exactly what I’m going to continue to do.”
If there is a criminal conviction and jail time is served …
Though the province has been hesitant to get involved in Toronto’s affairs, both Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey have said the mayor can only be removed from office if he/she is convicted of a criminal offence and is imprisoned.
“There’s nothing that we can do at this point,” Jeffrey told reporters gathered at Queen’s Park. “The province has no power to remove anybody, and obviously we’d have to wait until the investigation unfolds as to next steps.”
She was speaking just after Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair confirmed existence of a video that appears to show Ford smoking from a crack pipe.
Blair said he was “disappointed” by the video as a citizen of Toronto, but added that the recovered video does not support criminal charges against the mayor.
Others have pointed out that even if charges were laid, the legal process would be unlikely to wrap up before the end of the mayor’s four-year term next October.
If city council can’t achieve ‘quorum’ for 60 days …
Another option involving both the city and the province allows Ontario’s municipal affairs minister to step in and “declare all the offices of the members of the council to be vacant” if city council is unable to hold a meeting for 60 days.
That two-month period would begin on the first day council couldn’t achieve “quorum,” meaning attendance by a majority of councillors. In Toronto’s case, that’s 23.
But in addition to council business grinding to a complete halt -- a position likely to frustrate the public, who expects elected officials to work – it would also trigger a byelection for all of the seats. Councillors would be putting their own jobs on the line.
A number of councillors have already expressed frustration with the amount of attention the issue is getting, characterizing the story a “circus,” “sideshow,” and “train wreck.”
Most agree that pushing on with city business needs to be a top priority right now – whether Ford is involved or not.
A non-binding motion drafted by Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong pushes for Ford to “do the right thing” and take a leave of absence.
Another by Councillors John Filion and Paul Ainslie proposes that Ford be stripped of specific powers, such as the ability to appoint the deputy mayor or committee chairs. Those duties would instead be shifted to city council at large.
And Coun. Adam Vaughan -- one of Ford’s staunchest opponents – has simply suggested that city council effectively ignore the mayor and move the agenda along without his influence.