If council opts for a by-election, it will likely take place in the spring, with an expected cost of as much as $9-million. Some councillors are balking at the expense. Others, such as Mr. Layton, argue that a by-election is necessary . “I do think we need to have a mayor and it’s likely the people of Toronto should be the ones to determine who that is.”
However, a by-election is no guarantee the Ford era will come to a close – the mayor, who garners about 42 per cent support in recent polls, vowed yesterday that “I’ll be running in the next municipal election.”
Several names of prospective challengers are circulating, including that of NDP MP Olivia Chow, as well as councillors Adam Vaughan, Karen Stintz and Shelley Carroll, the only declared candidate so far. “It won’t be a stop-gap election,” said Ms. Carroll. “People will be looking at someone they can live with for the next five years.”
The appointment option, though less expensive and less disruptive, is fraught with complexity because prospective candidates would have to garner the support of a large majority of council to lead effectively. Names like John Tory and former mayor David Crombie have been bandied about.
If the division court tosses out the decision, Mr. Ford will return to his post. According to veteran political strategist John Duffy, a former adviser to Paul Martin, it’s unlikely Mr. Ford will benefit from a sudden groundswell of renewed support. “I have trouble envisioning a sustained, powerful ‘the boss is back’ moment.”
And, Mr. Duffy noted, the mayor still faces another legal hurdle – a forensic audit of his campaign finances, which will be presented to council’s compliance audit committee in early February. “The bigger question is what happens if the election spending item moves into crisis pitch on the heels of this [appeal].”
None of the options hold much appeal for Mr. Duffy, who argued that the drama around Mr. Ford’s legal problems have proven to be hugely distracting for a council facing major problems, such as modernizing the transit system. “There is no scenario where I can see the kind of stability and leadership at city hall that we need to deal with the challenges that are upon us.”