Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to learn political fate Friday
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will learn Friday whether he can keep his job.
A three-judge panel of the Ontario Divisional Court will release its decision at 10:30 a.m. on Friday.
Ford is appealing a judicial order to remove him from office, after an Ontario Superior Court justice ruled in November that he had violated conflict-of-interest rules during a council vote last year.
His appeal went before the court earlier this month.
The decision will be made available online.
Ford's lawyer, Alan Lenczner, argued during the appeal that forcing Ford to relinquish the Toronto mayoralty is a "draconian" punishment for an honest error in judgment in his interpretation of conflict-of-interest rules.
Lenczner argued that the mayor misinterpreted the law when he voted in favour of a council motion that would have absolved him from an earlier council directive to repay $3,150 in donations made by lobbyists to his football charity.
In November, Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles T. Hackland found Ford violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, and ordered the mayor to vacate his seat.
The act does say that violation of conflict of interest rules would result in automatic expulsion from office, save for an error in judgment or if the money involved was too small to be classified a pecuniary amount.
Lenczner cited both provisions in his arguments to the three-judge panel hearing the appeal.
He also argued that city council did not have the power to order Ford to pay back the donations, and that the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act only applies when the city or a council member gains money, which he says did not apply in Ford's case.
Moreover, the penalty for violating the act — removal from office — is "draconian" and punishes not only Ford, but the electorate that sent him to office by a margin of 100,000 votes, Lenczner said.
The legal proceedings stem from a complaint filed 10 months ago by Toronto resident Paul Magder, who alleged Ford had violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act by speaking and voting on a matter in which he had a financial interest.
After Hackland ruled Ford had broken conflict-of-interest rules and should be removed from office, the mayor successfully sought a stay of the decision which has allowed him to keep his job while the appeal process takes place.
Byelection vs. interim mayor
If the mayor loses his appeal, city council will have to decide whether to hold a multimillion-dollar byelection, or simply appoint someone to take over for the remaining two years of Ford's term.
Coun. Mike Layton said he's leaning toward holding a byelection for mayor if Ford is ordered out of office.
"At some point you have to say, 'what’s the price of democracy?' And really who should be deciding who the mayor of Toronto is? I tend to think it should be the people who decide," said Layton.
Council could appoint Ford to serve out the rest of his term. Another option is to have council appoint a council member to serve as interim mayor until the next municipal election in 2014.
Coun. Doug Holyday, a former mayor of Etobicoke, is one council member whose name has come up in discussions about a possible interim mayor.
Coun. Jaye Robinson said Holyday would be a good choice, so long as he agrees not to run for the mayor's job in 2014.
"He has been a mayor before, so he could clearly be a good candidate," Robinson told CBC News.
Ford has said he would run again for mayor at the earliest opportunity if his appeal fails and he is ousted from office.