In his first public comments since a judge cleared him to run in a possible by-election, Rob Ford urged his council colleagues to let the voters render a final verdict on his mayoralty.
“I’m not quitting, I’m not resigning. And if we don’t win the appeal, hopefully there’ll be a by-election,” Mr. Ford said on the Sunday radio show he co-hosts with his brother, Councillor Doug Ford.
“If council decides they’re going to have a by-election, I will assure you I’ll be the first one into the race and I encourage everyone else to get in the race also. I think it’s only fair that people have the right to vote,” the mayor said.
Sunday’s edition of “The City” on Newstalk 1010 was the first since an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled last Monday that Mr. Ford broke the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he spoke and voted in favour of freeing himself from repaying $3,150 in donations to his football charity.
The act carries a mandatory penalty of eviction from office.
Mr. Ford is appealing the ruling and remains mayor until at least Dec. 10. On Wednesday, the mayor’s lawyer will ask for a temporary suspension of the eviction order, until the appeal can be decided.
On Friday, Mr. Justice Charles Hackland amended his ruling to make it clear that if the mayor loses his appeal and council opts to call a by-election, Mr. Ford can run.
Councillor Shelley Carroll declared Friday that she was ready to challenge Mr. Ford, saying she could run the city a "damn sight better" than the mayor.
Other potential candidates from the left side of the political spectrum, including Adam Vaughan and Olivia Chow, have not ruled out running in a by-election or the 2014 general election.
The political calculus for right-leaning contenders became more complicated with the news Mr. Ford is allowed to contest a by-election if his appeal fails.
But TTC Chair Karen Stintz and Ford ally Denzil Minnan-Wong have not publicly ruled out running either.
As is often the case, Sunday’s radio broadcast was a bit of a love-in for the Fords.
Ford allies and councillors Peter Milczyn, Mike Del Grande, Frances Nunziata and Mark Grimes all made guest appearances on the show.
Initially unaware that he was on the air, Mr. Grimes, an Etobicoke councillor, joked that he had just called in to make sure Doug Ford behaved.
The brothers also invited Paul Del Grande, the budget chief’s brother, on the show to plug his campaign for a vacant seat on the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
Caller after caller voiced support for the mayor. One encouraged listeners to check out a friend’s new pro-Ford website; another labelled the mayor a “sweetheart” and the brothers her heroes; a third described himself as a gay urbanite who backs the mayor “100 per cent.”
No negative calls made the show.
Doug Ford said heartfelt endorsements such as those broadcast Sunday are what keeps the Ford brothers in politics.
“People ask Rob and I, why do you do it?” the councillor said, describing the cushier life he had before running for Ward 2 in 2010.
“I had a great life, alright? We had a fabulous life,” he said.
“We are the most fortunate people to walk on two feet,” the mayor interjected.
“But, you know, you gotta come and do public service. When they come and try to take you down you gotta keep fighting,” the councillor said.
Despite the heavy week ahead, the brothers tried to keep it light.
When a croaky-voiced mayor crooned along to Jingle Bells after a commercial break, Doug cut in.
“Please, Judge,” he said, “if you hear that singing, make sure he keeps his day job.”