Toronto Councillor Jaye Robinson says she was turfed from the mayor’s executive committee without an explanation or the courtesy of receiving the news personally because she “crossed a line,” by suggesting Rob Ford take a leave to address his personal issues and for saying his brother should not be speaking for the mayor.
Ms. Robinson’s removal from the mayor’s 13-member executive and as chair of the community development and recreation committee was announced late Monday in a mini-shuffle that saw her replaced by NDP Councillor Anthony Perruzza.
In the same announcement, Councillor Paul Ainslie was removed from the key post of chair of the government management committee. Norm Kelly will take over that file, while Mr. Ainslie will replace Mr. Kelly as chair of the parks and environment committee.
Mr. Ford told reporters Tuesday he made the shuffle because it was time for a change. “Just want to bring some fresh blood on the executive, going in a different direction,” the mayor said.
He said he has known Mr. Perruzza for a long time and he has backed his administration on key issues, such as a burger stand at city hall and the appointment of Councillor Mike Del Grande to the police board.
“He’s voted with our administration a number of times and I think people should be rewarded for that,” Mr. Ford said. “Councillor Perruzza is going to be a huge asset and we’ve talked about it and I’m thrilled to have him and so is the executive. We are going to go in a very positive direction.”
The mayor said his decision to remove Ms. Robinson was not linked to her remarks. “Changes happen all the time in politics, you know that. It happens all the time,” he said when asked why he would pull her as committee chair just six months after he appointed her.
The mayor took issue with those who say women are not in leadership roles in his administration, pointing to the speaker, and the three women that chair community councils.
He also said he tried to reach Ms. Robinson six times to deliver the news personally. “She did not want to come to my office,” he said. “When you try to get a hold of someone six times and they turn around and say you never got a hold of me, that’s completely not true, that’s false,” he said.
Ms. Robinson is the only member of the cabinet-like executive who has persistently criticized the mayor’s response to the drug allegations that have engulfed city hall. She urged him to address unanswered questions about the exodus of staff from his office and allegations he appeared to be smoking crack cocaine on a video that was viewed by two news organizations but has not surfaced. She urged him to step aside at least for the summer in order to address his personal issues.
The mayor has said he does not use crack cocaine and is not an addict, but has refused to answer further questions.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning Ms. Robinson said she stands by her statements that if Mr. Ford is ”unwilling or unable to definitively address the allegations, than he should take a leave and allow the rest of us to get on with city business.”
Her removal, she said, speaks to a growing polarization at city hall, despite the fact Mr. Ford has reached into the ranks of the left for her replacement. Asked if it is significant that there is no longer a single woman in the city’s most powerful committee, Ms. Robinson said she believes Mr. Ford “will be more comfortable with an all-male cast on executive.”
Ms. Robinson said she was summoned to Mr. Ford’s office with 10 minute’s notice Monday – a request she could not meet because she was in her ward. As a result, the news was delivered to a member of her staff about 4 pm.
“The mayor didn’t have the fortitude to speak to me and to tell me to my face that I was being removed from executive and to give me reasons. I’ve been given no reasons, I’ve simply been removed,” she said The mayor did not respond immediately to Ms. Robinson’s comments, but his brother Councillor Doug Ford stepped before the cameras when her press conference finished to call her account of events “disingenuous.”
Mr. Ford said his brother tried to set up an appointment with her for Monday that she cancelled. “She was avoiding the mayor and those are the facts,” he said.
Mr. Ford said his brother removed her from the executive in preparation for the election campaign that will begin in January, not as punishment for her remarks.
“We are going in a new direction folks and Anthony Perruzza that took her place shares the same priorities as the mayor,” he said. “I don’t think this is a big deal at all.”
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, another member of the executive who came to hear Ms. Robinson’s remarks said the mayor had little choice but to remove her given the personal nature of her comments. “I’m not so sure that Councillor Robinson necessarily spoke 100 per cent out of her concern for the mayor or whether she might be trying to score some political points,” he said.