As the dust settled after an angry city council session that stripped the mayor of his office budget and powers, some councillors say Speaker Frances Nunziata needs to rein in the behaviour of Rob Ford and his brother Doug.
The tense meeting on Monday saw the mayor and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, get into shouting matches with the crowded public gallery during a recess called by Ms. Nunziata in an attempt to calm tempers during debate. As the pair taunted their critics in the gallery, the mayor instructed his driver and security guard to videotape the crowd, sparking complaints from some councillors about intimidation.
Later, the mayor, attempting to run to his brother’s side as the Etobicoke councillor engaged in a heated argument, accidentally bodychecked Councillor Pam McConnell to the ground. In his final remarks, Mr. Ford warned of “war” in the next election, comparing council’s move to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Councillors are calling for Ms. Nunziata, a Ford supporter, to make a more concerted effort to keep the Ford brothers in line. The mayor “needs a stern warning that this won’t be tolerated from the speaker, and she needs to put her partisanship aside,” said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a onetime ally of Mr. Ford who is considering a run for mayor in the next election. “He acted like a schoolyard bully. His conduct was erratic and unstable.”
In an interview, Ms. Nunziata insisted she did all she could to keep order, but added that she has asked the clerk to look into the possibility of new, stricter rules. Ms. Nunziata denied showing any bias and called the Fords’ behaviour on Monday “totally unacceptable” and “off the wall.” While she also said other councillors also acted inappropriately, she had “very harsh” words with the Fords privately afterward.
“They were being very disruptive. Their behaviour was just awful. … It was the worst I’d ever seen in the council chambers in all the years I’ve been involved,” Ms. Nunziata said, arguing that even if she took the “extreme” step of ejecting the Fords, she doubted they would have left the chamber willingly.
Last week at council, the mayor also got into two confrontations with Mr. Minnan-Wong, who had put forward a motion condemning Mr. Ford’s behaviour and asking him to take a leave of absence. At the time, Mr. Minnan-Wong told council he felt threatened.
Also, after a chaotic news conference in the mayor’s office last week, a TV camera operator was allegedly punched as Mr. Ford, his security guards and his wife forced their way through the crowd.
School trips to City Hall remain suspended until the end of the month, said City of Toronto spokesperson Jackie DeSouza, due to health and safety concerns about the media frenzy surrounding the mayor.
Ms. McConnell, a left-leaning opponent of the mayor, said she is filing a report on her run-in with Mr. Ford with city hall security and believes she could have been more seriously hurt.
“It was very scary,” she said. “It felt like a raging bull. It is not acceptable behaviour. I was lucky. I was very, very lucky,” she said Tuesday, adding that it is important to restore civility to the council chamber.
Councillor Janet Davis, a left-leaning opponent of the mayor, said his recent behaviour at council would not be tolerated in a workplace. And she said she is concerned that Mr. Ford violated city policy when he had his driver film the public watching the council meeting.
Ms. Davis also urged Ms. Nunziata to do more to keep order in council. And she said Mr. Ford needs to change his ways: “He has got to start behaving like an adult.”
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, a veteran politician and former Liberal MP who will now take on some of Mr. Ford’s duties in the wake of Monday’s vote, also condemned the mayor’s behaviour.
“I have never seen that before in any of the four forms of government that I’ve participated in,” Mr. Kelly said. “I couldn’t tell you why he did it, but it certainly didn’t look good on him or this council or, frankly, for the reputation of this city.”
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