Rob Ford scandal 'truly disturbing,' Wynne says
Ontario premier says province may intervene if city can't function
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday that details of the scandal surrounding Toronto Mayor Rob Ford "are truly disturbing" and said the province would consider intervening if council indicates it cannot function.
Wynne said that before Queen's Park would act, the city would first need to show it is unable to operate with Ford as mayor.
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"As I’ve said from day one, we have been watching this situation closely and listening very carefully," said Wynne. "Events continue to move quickly and the things that we are seeing and hearing about Mayor Rob Ford are truly disturbing."
Wynne took no questions after making the statement at the legislature on Thursday afternoon.
Toronto City Hall has been wracked by turmoil since Ford admitted to smoking crack cocaine. Ongoing revelations about his erratic behaviour and allegations of drug and alcohol abuse prompted a non-binding council vote yesterday that calls on him to take a leave of absence.
Ford has resisted increasing calls for him to step aside and has said he plans to run for re-election next fall.
"If council were to clearly indicate that they lack the ability to function as a result of this matter, the province would respond to a request from council to be provided new tools, depending on what that request might be," Wynne said.
Wynne said any action from the province to deal with a situation she called "extraordinary and unique" would come only after first consulting with opposition parties at Queen's Park.
"The last thing this terrible situation needs is a layer of partisan politics," she said.
It was not immediately clear what, if any, support the provincial Progressive Conservatives or New Democrats would give for such an action. However, Wynne’s Liberals hold a minority government, which means they would need the help of the opposition if any legislation were to be passed.
She also stressed that it is the municipal level of government that would have to initiate any change.
"It is not the provincial government's role, nor its intention to impose its preferences upon that government," she said.
Some Toronto councillors indicated Thursday that they appreciated Wynne’s statement, but others believe that provincial involvement would be a mistake.
"The province should stay away from this," said Coun. Adam Vaughan. "As a resident of Toronto, [Wynne] should be concerned. But the province has no business choosing mayors in Toronto. This is not some strange Victorian colonial outpost."
Ahead of Wynne’s announcement, Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said it was time for the province to show its support.
"I hope the province is watching, I hope the premier is watching, I don’t want to set a precedent, but if a precedent ever were to be sent, it would be today because the mayor of this city embarrassed us all today," Minnan-Wong said Thursday, ahead of the premier’s statement and after Ford made a crude, sexually explicit remark he later apologized for.
Minnan-Wong tabled the motion that council passed yesterday, which called on the mayor to take a leave of absence.
The motion is non-binding and Ford has so far shown no plans of taking a break from city hall.
Read the full text of Wynne's statement
Here is the full text of Wynne's statement regarding the ongoing situation in the City of Toronto:
"As I have said from day one, we have been watching this situation closely and listening carefully. Events obviously continue to move quickly. The things we are seeing and hearing about Mayor Rob Ford are truly disturbing. Yesterday, City Council voted to request the mayor take a leave of absence.
As Premier of Ontario, the principles that are guiding me on this issue are as follows:
One, the City of Toronto has a mayor and council that were elected by the residents of Toronto and must be accountable to them. It is up to the municipal level of government to address the issues they face. It is not the provincial government's role, nor its intention to impose its preferences upon that government.
Two, Toronto City Council has to be able to function.
Three, if council were to clearly indicate that they lack the ability to function as a result of this matter, the province would respond to a request from council to be provided new tools, depending on what that request might be.
Four, because of the extraordinary and unique nature of this type of intervention, I would consult with the other party leaders to see if our legislature could move unanimously if required.
The last thing this terrible situation needs is a layer of partisan politics. Within Ontario's legislature and across this city, we all have to stand together to represent the best interests of the people.
At every level, your government is here to serve you.
Toronto is a great city in an amazing province. We have a proud history and a bright future.
Toronto is greater than one politician or one government. Ontario is greater than one politician or one government.
I understand that people are affected by what is happening at this moment.
But I want the people of Toronto to know that we will not be defined by this.
And we will all work together to ensure the people's interests are served."
With files from The Canadian Press