Toronto city councillors reacted to the mayor’s revelation he has smoked crack cocaine with dismay but they also were determined to move forward as the mayor refused to step aside.
Following the mayor’s initial confession that he has smoked crack cocaine “probably about a year ago,” several councillors called for the mayor to step down, at least temporarily, and seek help.
But after the mayor’s news conference Tuesday afternoon – where he emotionally apologized again to the public, his fellow councillors and his family – it was clear the mayor had no plans to heed this advice.
“I love being your mayor. There is important work that we must advance and important decisions that must be made.”
Many of his allies on the executive committee said it was his decision to make and their job now is to move forward with city business.
“He’s made a decision and we’re going to have to work with that,” said city councillor Anthony Perruzza, who sits on the mayor’s executive committee.
“We’re going to have to come together as a council and figure out how we continue to make the business of the city move forward.”
Other executive committee members, like recently appointed city councillor Peter Leon, expressed concern for the mayor’s health.
“At this time, my primary concern is for his well-being and the good health of the mayor and his family. As a friend and citizen of this incredible city, I believe the mayor must put his health and his young family first,” Mr. Leon said. However, he also said the decision to step down or not was the mayor’s alone to make.
The reactions came after a hectic and tense afternoon at City Hall in which two motions to city council were drafted by councillors in reaction to the mayor’s revelation. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a member of the executive committee, tabled a motion for next week’s council meeting to request the mayor take a leave of absence.
Councillor John Filion created a notice of motion for council’s December meeting that would strip the mayor of his power to appoint and dismiss members of his executive committee and chairs of standing committees.
After the mayor’s press conference, Mr. Filion said the mayor’s decision to not step down only created more urgency for council to consider removing his power to shuffle his executive committee.
“My motion’s going forward. I may or may not try to move it up and make that happen earlier,” Mr. Filion said, adding his best advice for the mayor would still be to step aside for now.
“That would be best for him and his family. That would be best for the city and as a strategic move, if he wants to stay in politics, it would also have been the best move. It still would be the best move now.”
Other councillors echoed Mr. Filion’s sentiments, saying the mayor’s actions warranted a leave.
“He has so clearly violated the trust that the city put in him, he and his brother. It’s time just to move on. They can’t be allowed to govern this city. They shouldn’t be allowed to hold office,” said councillor Adam Vaughan, one of the mayor’s most vocal opponents on council.
But with the city’s budget committee – on which the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, sits – set to begin talks Wednesday for the 2014 spending and city council meeting next week, councillors across the political spectrum agreed the only option was to try to move forward with city business and hope the mayor decides to take leave later.
“The system we have is the system we have,” Mr. Vaughan said. “We’ll just have to deal with it.”