Kathleen Wynne has stepped out on a limb, offering a process by which the province could intervene to remove Toronto Mayor Rob Ford from office. It’s an extraordinary move for Ontario’s Premier. But these are extraordinary times.
Ms. Wynne was speaking to all Ontarians on Thursday, but her address was aimed above all at Toronto City Council. She said that, if what she called “this matter” makes it difficult for municipal government to function, council can appeal to the province for help. The province has the power to step in, because all municipalities are creatures of provincial legislation. Ms. Wynne is effectively tossing the city a lifeline. Toronto’s council needs to grab on. How? By passing a resolution in two parts: calling on Mr. Ford to resign, and, if he refuses, asking the province to remove him from office.
On Wednesday, council overwhelmingly demanded that Mr. Ford take a leave of absence. He refused. Council can now move on to stronger measures, giving the province the signal it needs. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a long-time Ford ally who has broken rank with the mayor has floated such a proposal. It deserves unanimous support.
Opposition leaders at Queen’s Park also need to step up. One of Ms. Wynne’s preconditions for intervention requires Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to sign off. Mr. Hudak is going to have to rise above partisanship. Politically, Mr. Ford may claim to be a Conservative but his behaviour doesn’t exactly square with the party’s core values. He consorts with suspected and convicted criminals, refuses to speak to the police, smoked crack and lied about it, has been publicly intoxicated – “hammered” – on numerous occasions and has bought illegal drugs. He’s been accused of racist, homophobic language which, like much else, he has yet to explain. In the past, Mr. Hudak has treated Mr. Ford’s problems as personal ones, urging him to “seek help.” But Mr. Ford’s destructive behaviour long ago crossed the border from embarrassing to dangerous. His former allies on city council have become his chief questioners, and with good reason. He’s not an ally of the conservative agenda. He’s a threat to it.
If Mr. Ford had any shred of dignity left, he would save Ms. Wynne, Mr. Hudak and his colleagues at city hall the trouble and remove himself from office. But he won’t.
City council alone can’t save Toronto from its disgrace of a mayor. But together with Queen’s Park, it can.