Rob Ford stripped of key powers in council vote
Toronto mayor loses authority during emergencies, vows legal action
- Ford loses power to appoint deputy mayor and executive committee members
- Ford also loses his authority during emergencies
- The mayor vows to take council to court
- 3rd motion on Monday will slash Ford's office budget
- Premier Wynne says vote shows Toronto council still able to function
Toronto city council has voted to both remove Mayor Rob Ford's authority during emergency situations and, under a separate motion, has stripped his power to hire and fire the deputy mayor and appoint members of his executive committee.
The motions passed 41-2 and 39-3, respectively, at council's meeting Friday morning. They are the first of three motions aimed at leaving Ford as mayor in name only.
He will continue his last 11 months as mayor with severely limited powers.
Ford's only comment about the motions outside council was a brief statement to reporters in the early afternoon.
"Councillors had their say today; taxpayers will have their say on Oct. 27," he said, referring to next year's municipal election.
Ford still has the authority to declare an emergency but, in that event, authority would pass to the deputy mayor.
The vote on the third motion is expected Monday. It would reduce his staff and office budget to that of a regular city councillor.
During debate about the motion to strip emergency powers, Coun. Doug Ford said voters, not council, should make the decision about whether or not his brother stays on as mayor.
"That's not our decision, that's the people's decision," he said. "In October of next year, the people will speak."
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Ford's most vocal opponents were upbeat as council went into recess.
"We sent a clear message. We're unified. We're going to go about doing the work of the city and we can do that in spite of Mayor Ford's behaviour," said Coun. John Filion, the sponsor of Monday's motion. "It's a move that shouldn't be taken lightly and wasn't."
I have no other option other than to challenge this in court.- Rob Ford, Toronto mayor
Coun. Janet Davis said she was pleased with the outcome.
"The positive side of this is that we now have a council speaking with one voice and we'll go forward now to restore the integrity of this institution," she said.
The mayor indicated he would fight the motions in court, though he was uncharacteristically quiet through the proceedings, asking only a handful of mostly procedural questions.
"Obviously I can't support this and I have no other option other than to challenge this in court," Ford said at one point.
Coun. Ford was more bullish, remarking he looks forward to a court battle.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne — who said Thursday she would only step in if the city ceased to function properly — appeared pleased with council's move to limit Ford's power.
"My concern is that city council function and the decisions that were taken this morning I think demonstrate that city council is determined to function," she said.
A majority of councillors has already formally urged Ford to take a leave of absence amid a drug scandal, though some council members are now calling for the mayor’s outright resignation.
For two weeks straight, Ford has made news almost on a daily basis with a rolling series of admissions, apologies and responses to new developments.
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Newly released court documents on Wednesday revealed that former staff members of Ford told police that the mayor smoked marijuana in front of them, used Oxycontin, drove after drinking, and had city staff regularly deliver alcohol to him.
None of these allegations have been proven in court.
The motion approved Friday also freezes the standing committee and deputy mayor positions, while allowing Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly to appoint replacements if vacancies occur over the next year.
The mayor draws a lot of power from his ability to appoint committee chairs. Filion said allowing the current deputy mayor and committee chairs to stay in their roles will provide stability and allow them to act independently without fear of retribution.
Council does not have the authority to remove Ford from office.
Since the start of November, Ford has admitted to having smoked crack cocaine while serving as mayor, apologized for that and other "mistakes," some of which were alcohol-related, acknowledged buying illegal drugs in the past two years and even said Thursday that he has potentially got behind the wheel after drinking.
He also admitted to being "extremely, extremely inebriated" on a bizarre video that the Toronto Star purchased and published on its website, which showed Ford swearing and ranting. It entered the public realm just two days after Ford said he had "nothing left to hide."
On Thursday, Ford further shocked reporters at city hall by using crude, sexually explicit language to deny some specific allegations that police heard during a lengthy investigation.
The mayor soon apologized for his "graphic remarks," which were roundly criticized by council members, though he went on to tell reporters that the pressure on him has nearly pushed him to a breaking point.
"For the past six months I have been under, tremendous, tremendous stress," Ford said.
"The stress is largely of my own making. I have apologized and I have tried to move forward. This has proven to be almost impossible."
The six months Ford referred to is the time period since reports first emerged about a video allegedly showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine.
In May, both the Toronto Star and the U.S. gossip website Gawker reported that someone had been trying to sell the video.
Ford long denied the video’s existence and also denied using crack cocaine. But the questions dogged him for months, no matter how many times he tried to change the channel or shut down reporters by asking them if there was "anything else" they wanted to know about.
On the last day of October, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair publicly revealed that police had obtained a digital video file that was consistent with what the media had reported. The mayor soon called for the video’s release and within days made the bombshell admission that he had indeed smoked crack cocaine — a fact that is now known world-wide.
Police probed the claims that had been made about the video, as part of an investigation that led to an extortion charge against the mayor’s friend and occasional driver. The public has learned about some parts of that police investigation via documents that a court has released in part. Ford has threatened legal action in response to some of the allegations that police were told about.
Ford in the headlines
But well ahead of the recent drug-related controversy, Ford was a magnet for controversy while serving as mayor.
He faced criticism over his commitment to coaching a high-school football team, which he no longer coaches after the school board decided to find a new coach in the wake of comments Ford made to a television station.
Even his personal driving habits have made headlines, though Ford has recently been seen with a driver — something he has said are part of changes he is making in his life.
The 44-year-old mayor came to power three years ago promising to "stop the gravy train," the rallying cry he has often invoked to describe his intent to cut waste and spending at city hall. But since taking on the job of mayor, Ford has often struggled to lead a divided council on key issues.
Ford previously served as a councillor for a ward in Etobicoke, the Toronto suburb where he lives with his wife and two children.
The mayor has said he intends to seek re-election next year, and has predicted the campaign will be "a bloodbath."
So far, the only current member of council to declare their intention to run is Stintz, who said Thursday that her decision to contest the mayor is a sign that she has no confidence in him.