Toronto city councillors will consider limiting the powers of the mayor’s office and its role in an emergency if Rob Ford continues to resist their calls to take a leave from office.
The move to limit Mr. Ford’s power will come later this week. Council voted 37-5 on Wednesday to ask Mr. Ford to step aside temporarily, a decision that came in a day full of drama, including two occasions when the mayor appeared close to a physical confrontation with Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a former ally.
On Friday at a special meeting, councillors will debate placing limits on the mayor’s role for the remainder of the term and stripping the office of its powers in an emergency and handing them to the deputy mayor.
At Queen’s Park, Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey said council “needs to function,” and that she would examine its move to censure the mayor.
In front of a packed council chamber on Wednesday, in a session broadcast live at times by the U.S. news channel CNN, Mr. Ford took questions from councillors for about an hour – the most stinging from past supporters such as Mike Del Grande, Michael Thompson and Mr. Minnan-Wong. He admitted after some hesitation that he has bought illegal drugs in the past two years, but denied he is addicted to drugs or alcohol.
“There is nothing else to say guys. I really effed up,” Mr. Ford said, shrugging his shoulders before the final vote.
In yet another strange twist, Mr. Ford attempted unsuccessfully to introduce a motion that would subject all councillors to hair drug and alcohol testing, with the mayor covering the cost. Speaker Frances Nunziata ruled it out of order.
“I am proud of my council colleagues. When the world was watching, we did the right thing,” Mr. Minnan-Wong said after the vote, which in the end was symbolic.
While council cannot compel the mayor to take a leave, two members of his executive – councillors Peter Milczyn and Gary Crawford – said Mr. Ford has lost control of that committee as well as any moral authority to lead.
“He may chair it, but we still make the decisions,” Mr. Crawford said.
If he stays, he will be isolated, just as he was as a renegade councillor for many years, Mr. Milczyn predicted.
The council decision came just moments before new allegations about Mr. Ford’s behaviour were made public from court documents – and just after Mr. Ford told council he maybe had “one hanger” left in his closet. At lunchtime, crowds gathered in Nathan Phillips Square to ask the mayor to leave, and organizers of the city’s Santa Claus Parade wrote to Mr. Ford asking him not to march at the event on Sunday.
Last week, Mr. Ford made the stunning admission that he smoked crack cocaine in a “drunken stupor,” after denying it for months.
Wednesday’s motion by Mr. Minnan-Wong also asked the mayor to apologize for misleading the public and to co-operate with police. Mr. Ford said during the debate that his lawyer has advised him not to answer police questions.
On Friday, council will consider formally limiting the powers of the mayor’s office at two back-to-back special meetings. It will consider a motion by Councillor John Filion to prevent the mayor from firing or appointing the deputy mayor and the chairs of standing committees. A second initiative organized on Wednesday would strip Mr. Ford of his powers in an emergency.
“The mayor does not appear to be in a state to deal with an emergency right now,” Mr. Filion explained.
As more allegations from court documents about Mr. Ford’s bad behaviour began to circulate in the council chamber, new concerns emerged.
Councillor John Parker, one of five who voted against asking the mayor to take a leave, said he did so because he believes Mr. Ford is not fit to return to office. “There is a terrible pattern of absolutely unforgivable behaviour,” he said. “That gives us a measure of the character of the man who holds the office and, frankly, he is unfit to hold the office and that has been demonstrated time and time again.”
Others who voted against the leave included the mayor and councillors Doug Ford, Gord Perks and Maria Augimeri.
An idea floated by Mr. Minnan-Wong to ask Queen’s Park to step in was not brought to the floor of council when it became clear it would not get the needed support.
With reports from Kaleigh Rogers and Adrian Morrow