Mayor Rob Ford stripped of powers in Toronto council vote
Toronto city council voted to strip Mayor Rob Ford of more of his powers Monday evening, following a day of debate that descended into chaos at times and left one councillor with a fat lip.
Councillors voted on each measure included in the motion separately, including a vote of 37-5 to reduce the mayor’s budget, a vote of 36-6 to transfer the remaining mayoral budget to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly and a vote of 30-10 to prevent the mayor from designating key items for council debate.
Mayor Ford abstained from voting on the advice of the city’s integrity commissioner. Ford is now essentially the mayor in name only, with most of his powers transferred to Kelly.
Before the vote, several councillors stood up to speak to the motion before Mayor Ford addressed the chamber as the last speaker.
Ford dismissed the move to limit his powers as “nothing more than a coup d’etat,” and accused councillors of telling Toronto voters “that their vote does not count.”
Then, in a bizarre turn, Ford said the move reminded him of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s decision to attack Kuwait.
“And Pres. (George H.W.) Bush said, ‘I warn you, I warn you, I warn you, do not.’ Well folks, if you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait.”
Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, one of the councillors who was most vocal with his calls for the mayor to step down, dismissed concerns that council was acting outside its authority.
“It’s not illegal. This is not a coup d’etat,” Minnan-Wong told reporters. “Council is taking legal measures that we believe are enforceable. We did the right thing today.”
Coun. John Filion, who moved the motion, said the vote “was done by a democratically elected council that, combined, got more votes than the mayor.”
But Coun. Doug Ford said city council “did not have the authority to change the legal statutes that the province has put out in front of us.”
Ford called the vote “a battle that we lost today,” but said “the war is not done, this is just the beginning.”
Monday's special meeting follows another tumultuous week at city hall that saw Ford admit to having bought illegal drugs since being elected to Toronto's top office. The following day Ford sparked outrage by making a crude sexual comment while on live TV.
The vote capped off a day of many wild moments in council chambers Monday, as councillors debated the motion.
About two hours into the meeting, Ford rose from his seat and began circling council chambers as one of his aides took pictures of the crowd.
Some individuals heckled the mayor and yelled "shame," while smaller arguments broke out between spectators.
According to reporters in the chamber, the mayor's brother then got involved in a verbal altercation with members of the public.
CP24’s Katie Simpson reported that Coun. Doug Ford “called someone a scumbag.”
At one point, the mayor broke into a run around the side of the chamber and crashed into Coun. Pam McConnell, who nearly fell to the ground. Ford helped her get to her feet before he walked away.
A 10 minute recess was called and all members of the public were ordered to leave council chambers.
When debate resumed, Coun. Paula Fletcher asked the mayor to apologize to McConnell.
“It was a complete accident,” Ford said. “I do sincerely apologize to you, Coun. McConnell.”
Later, McConnell could be seen at her desk in the council chamber, holding ice to her face. She told reporters the collision gave her a fat lip.
At another moment in the debate, as Doug Ford was speaking, Coun. Paul Ainslie tried to interject. Ford accused him of having “problems of your own,” and Rob Ford began making gestures of taking a drink and then driving a car. Ainslie received a warning from police earlier this year when he was stopped by a R.I.D.E. check. He was not charged.
Province won’t step in
Meanwhile, the Ontario government said it has no intention of holding a municipal election in Toronto amid calls for the embattled mayor to resign.
Ford had called for a snap election Monday ahead of Monday’s debate.
However, Ontario's Municipal Affairs Linda Jeffery said the government is not considering changes to allow for an election in Toronto within 90 days.
Earlier in the day, Ford took to the airwaves to defend himself, charging that council is trying to stop his agenda.
"They don't like me saving money, that's the bottom line," Ford told AM640 Monday morning.
Asked if the push to remove him from office revolves around the admission that he’s used crack cocaine while sitting as mayor, Ford said it’s completely “irrelevant.”
“What about my political record?” he said, adding: "Let's have an election right now. If they want me out, let's call a snap election."
Ford said what council is attempting to do is "illegal" and he plans to fight it in court.
"What am I supposed to do, sit here and let these guys pound me for saving money and try to embarrass me? That's all it comes down to."
Ford's lawyer George Rust D'Eye said Monday that council does not have the authority to take powers away from the mayor.
"The City of Toronto Act establishes the role of the mayor and establishes specific mandatory duties of the mayor," he told CP24 earlier Monday. "He is to act as the chief executive officer of the city and the council has no power to take away from him whatever the powers of chief executive officers are."
Rust D'Eye said after the vote that he plans to meet with Ford to decide what, if any, action they will take.
Doug Ford, said the two are ready to take legal action against the city as well as individual councillors.
"We will definitely, 100 per cent be taking action against the city, and will be taking action against each and every city councillor that wants to break the law," Doug Ford told reporters ahead of Monday's special meeting.
However, some councillors have already dismissed the Fords’ legal threats.
"Mayor Ford indicated that if he was a councillor he would be doing exactly the same thing we'd be doing because of his behaviour," Coun. Karen Stintz said. "But now that he's mayor, he wants to sue us?"
Stintz said council has lost confidence in the mayor and it's acting within its authority -- a sentiment that was echoed by a number of councillors Monday.
"The mayor is out of control but council is handling things," Coun. John Parker told reporters gathered at city hall.
He said the city continues to operate in spite of the recent controversies that have surrounded Ford. "As the mayor spirals downward, he's not taking the rest of us with him," Parker said.
Last week, councillors overwhelmingly voted in favour of stripping Ford of some of his powers, which included his ability to hire and fire committee chairs and his leadership role in emergency situations.
Calls for Ford to resign have grown steadily since he recently admitted to smoking crack cocaine about a year ago and to being inebriated at certain public events.
However, Ford has remained steadfast that he will not resign and he plans to run for re-election in the 2014 mayoral race.
With files from The Canadian Press