Rob Ford promises 'outright war' as powers further restricted
Council votes after long debate that saw chaos and a mid-chamber collision
Toronto city council voted by a wide margin on Monday to slash the budget of embattled Mayor Rob Ford — a dramatic move that followed a raucous day in the council chambers that left the mayor promising that next year’s municipal election will be "outright war."
Ford spoke to Toronto city council late Monday afternoon, just minutes before his colleagues began voting on a series of motions that sought to — and did — further reduce his powers as mayor.
In a series of votes that occurred just after 5 p.m. ET, council voted in favour of reallocating the budget of his office, transferring administration of that budget to his deputy, and giving his deputy responsibility over Ford’s staff, among other measures.
Those measures came just three days after council previously voted overwhelmingly in favour of stripping the mayor of his ability to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor and key committee members. In a separate vote, they also removed his ability to exercise emergency powers.
Moments before council began voting on Monday, Ford warned his colleagues that if they voted to restrict his powers, there would be repercussions in the coming election.
"If you vote in favour of any of these motions, you are absolutely telling everybody that voted in the last municipal election that their vote does not count," he said.
Ford then went on to compare the situation at council to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
"Well folks, if you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait and … mark my words, friends, this is going to be outright war in the next election and I’m going to do everything in my power, everything in my power to beat you guys."
The 44-year-old Ford is three years into his term as mayor. The next municipal election is still nearly a year away.
Ford brothers on offensive
Earlier Monday, the mayor demanded to know whether Coun. John Filion, who tabled the motion that sought to restrict Ford's powers, was aware the council could not "impeach or remove its elected mayor" and if that is what he wanted to see happen.
"Mayor Ford, my preference was that you not place us in this position," Filion said.
"What’s before us is what council can legitimately do."
The mayor’s brother complained that they did not receive adequate notice of the changes to the motion.
"Do you know when we ended up getting this motion? Twenty-six minutes before the meeting," he said.
Soon after the Ford brothers spoke, the council speaker called for a 10-minute recess, during which time the mayor went to the front row of the public gallery to talk to people sitting there and to pose for some pictures.
While some in the gallery appeared to support the mayor, others were yelling at him and his brother, Coun. Doug Ford.
Rob Ford’s driver appeared to be filming some of those interactions with a smartphone and Coun. Shelley Carroll was, in turn, filming the bodyguard and the mayor.
During that same break, the mayor quickly accelerated toward a section of the viewing gallery and ended up bumping into Coun. Pam McConnell and she nearly hit the ground.
'It was a complete accident'
When the council meeting resumed, Coun. Paula Fletcher asked the mayor if he knew that McConnell had suffered "a swollen lip" during the collision.
"I ran around because I thought my brother was getting into an altercation," Ford said.
"I apologized and then I picked her up, I do apologize."
Fletcher disagreed with the mayor’s characterization that he picked up McConnell, saying she believed that the mayor's staff helped pick up McConnell.
Fletcher called on the mayor to apologize.
"It was a complete accident, I do sincerely apologize to you, Coun. McConnell," Ford said, after first attempting to apologize to "anybody that I offended when I rushed to my brother’s defence."
On Monday evening, McConnell told CBC's Power & Politics that she isn’t clear on what the mayor was thinking when he crashed into her.
"It was surreal, it was as if he didn’t even see me, or as if his adrenaline had overcome his thought processes," McConnell said.
In another unusual twist event during Monday’s meeting, Ford made drinking-and-driving gestures that were aimed at another councillor. The speaker told him he was being disruptive.
Mayor’s brother wants election held soon
Coun. Doug Ford moved a motion that would have council ask the province to introduce legislation to call an early election.
"Folks, this will make it very clear who the people of Toronto support," he said.
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti questioned why it would be necessary to have an election in all municipal wards, rather than one that solely involves the mayor.
"It is the mayor that has brought us to this point," Mammoliti said.
Doug Ford's motion was ruled out of order by the speaker.
The call for a potential snap election was not greeted enthusiastically at Queen’s Park.
"It's not something we're considering at the moment," Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey told reporters. "We're not considering changing the electoral period that members sit. It's not something we're contemplating."
Tim Hudak, the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, said the province should consider taking action if Toronto’s council indicates that it cannot function.
The motion from Coun. Ford came hours after he repeated his pledge to fight council's actions in court.
"This is a modern-day overthrow of an elected official. This is wrong," he told reporters.
"This is what you see in Third World nations … This is a modern-day coup d'état."
Coun. Ford added that the mayor is getting professional help and has not had any alcohol for three weeks.
Ford will press on
On the weekend, Ford appeared prepared to press forward at city hall, no matter what council did on Monday.
"I'm going to continue to fight for the little guy. I'm going to continue to save taxpayers money. And if the councillors want to strip all my powers, that's up to them," Ford told the U.S.-based Fox News.
Ford also taped an interview with CNN, during which he mingled with supporters in a neighbourhood in Etobicoke — the Toronto suburb where he served as a city councillor before being elected mayor, and where he still lives — and repeated his claims he has been unfairly targeted by the media. Things turned testy, however, when Ford was pressed about his initial denial, and eventual admission, of drug use.
"Typical media, you're all the same, cut from the same cloth," he told CNN's Bill Weir.
Coun. Ford, standing nearby, tried to get his brother to calm down.
Mayor Ford apparently cursed during the interview — a seeming echo of last week's gaffe, the use of a profane expression during a media scrum — though his exact words were bleeped out. He immediately apologized for swearing in the presence of children.
It has been an extraordinary month for Ford, who has admitted to having smoked crack cocaine and to having purchased illegal drugs, both while serving as mayor. Ford has also apologized for "mistakes," some of which were alcohol-related.
So far, he has resisted all calls for him to either take a leave of absence, or step down.
Judge declines motion to view alleged crack video
In other related news, on Monday, a judge dismissed an application to view the video by one of three young men who stand beside Ford in a now-famous photo.
Last week, Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer viewed the video and on Monday ruled against Muhammad Khattak's motion to view it.
Khattak's lawyer, who says his client does not appear in the alleged crack video, had argued that news reports about the scandal have harmed his client's reputation.
Khattak is one of three alleged gang members who appear with Ford in a photo that was distributed by people trying to sell the video. In that photo, Khattak stands beside Ford and two other men outside what police information describes as a crack house.
Khattak was arrested in June during a series of police raids called Project Traveller that targeted suspected gun and drug traffickers. Khattak is charged with drug trafficking and participating in a gang.
With files from The Canadian Press