Ahead of the meeting on Monday where city council will attempt to reduce the Toronto mayor’s staff and budget, employees who have been loyal to Rob Ford were given raises, and a new junior assistant was hired on Friday, sources in the mayor’s office say.
As the council takes its first steps in an unprecedented move to clip Mr. Ford’s wings, the mayor is making it clear he will not go without a fight.
Mr. Ford told councillors he has hired veteran municipal lawyer George Rust-D’Eye at his own expense to seek a way to challenge council’s attempts to strip him of his power. On Friday, council overwhelmingly supported two motions to remove the mayor’s ability to appoint standing committee chairs – who make up his cabinet-like executive committee – and whittle down his powers during an emergency. The next big move will come on Monday, with a motion that asks council to “delegate to the deputy mayor all powers and duties which are not by statute assigned to the mayor,” effectively reducing Mr. Ford to mayor in name only, and reduce his staff and budget to that of a councillor.
The mayor and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, criticized council on Friday in a campaign-style blitz.
The mayor vowed to continue “fighting for the taxpayer,” after the morning meeting. “The councillors had their say today. The taxpayers are going to have their say on Oct. 27. That’s all I can say,” he said.
His brother was more direct in his condemnation of council’s move. “Democracy was trampled today all over the city,” Doug Ford said.
“He’s the mayor of the people. Let the people decide, not the media, not the politicians, not the councillors. This is about democracy.”
Council does not have the power to remove Mr. Ford from office, but the province can change the law to give it this power. Premier Kathleen Wynne had a carefully worded message for the mayor on Friday, after making an offer on Thursday to give council tools to deal with the leadership crisis on request.
“The mayor needs to pay very close attention to the messages that he’s getting from his councillors, and my hope is that he would take his lead from their advice,” she said.
Friday’s lopsided votes – the first, to limit his emergency powers, passed 41-2 and the second, to curtail his powers of appointment, 39-3 – show the mayor and his brother are virtually isolated on council. “Their island is getting smaller,” said Councillor Jaye Robinson, a former member of the mayor’s executive committee.
David Shiner was the one councillor who voted with the Fords, saying later that only voters can remove the mayor’s power to chair the city’s standing committees and that Mr. Ford has “done a reasonable job.”
The vote effectively freezes the executive committee as it is so that standing committee chairs cannot lose their seats at the whim of the mayor. As for his emergency powers, Mr. Ford would be able to declare and end a state of emergency, but he would no longer be involved in deciding how the city should deal with the situation.
The special meeting followed a motion earlier this week by council asking the mayor to step aside after his recent admission that he smoked crack cocaine.
The mayor’s lawyer, Mr. Rust-D’Eye, said he was examining the mayor’s legal options, but would not say whether he believed council’s motions were illegal or whether the mayor would launch a court action.
“I am looking into all of the possibilities at the present time,” Mr. Rust-D’Eye said, adding he was still investigating whether council’s motions were legally offside and that he expected to deliver a written legal opinion to the mayor later on Friday.
He said, if necessary, he would consider going to court to try to reverse or stop council’s moves.
“If they exceed their jurisdiction, yeah, there are court proceedings that are available, either to prevent them from proceeding or, if they do proceed, moving to quash or judicially review their decision,” Mr. Rust-D’Eye said, adding that he would “look into the mechanics” of that if it became necessary.
Faced with new responsibilities and even more power pending Monday’s vote, deputy mayor Norm Kelly said it was an awkward moment for him, but he is prepared to accept the expanded role.
“I didn’t sign on to be deputy mayor to face these issues and to accept these responsibilities, but apparently that comes with the job, and I’ll do my very best.”
But he was tight-lipped on his thoughts about Monday’s vote.
Despite council’s dramatic efforts to chip away at his power, the mayor appeared calm and collected on Friday. He was spotted ducking out at lunchtime for a workout, and spent the afternoon battling with councillors over small spending issues in classic Ford fashion during a regular council meeting.
Asked if the mayor had any plans to try to intercept Monday’s siege through legal action, Doug Ford told reporters to “stay tuned.”
Dennis Morris, a lawyer and close adviser of the mayor, said the mayor was “very, very upset” by allegations his former staff made in police documents revealed on Wednesday. Mr. Morris accused the police of using the investigation as a vehicle to impugn the mayor’s reputation.
“It was just mud-slinging and there’s no way any of that belonged in an information to obtain a search warrant,” he said on Friday. “Their intention was a … covert smear campaign to show that the mayor is involved with bad company.”
Mr. Morris also said Mr. Ford is exercising regularly and is eating better, including drinking protein shakes.
“The mayor is pulling up his socks and he wishes to redeem himself for everything that he’s done in terms of poor judgment, poor actions. … We have one year, almost, to come before the public as a person that can be trusted. So I think he’s going to be doing that.”
With reports from Jeff Gray, Adrian Morrow and Jill Mahoney; Kaleigh Rogers is a freelance writer