The appeal court decision that leaves Mayor Rob Ford in office should come as a relief to everyone in Toronto. Even those who despise the mayor should welcome it.
Ousting the Mayor of Canada’s largest city over a relatively minor conflict-of-interest complaint would have been an extraordinarily unusual and unfortunate event. It would have overturned the result of an election that saw Mr. Ford elected with 47 per cent of the vote. It would have left his legion of followers feeling angry and disenfranchised. It would have presented city council with a tough and unprecedented decision: whether to hold a by-election or fill the office by appointment. It would have left Toronto at least temporarily without an effective leader at a time when it faces a host of difficult issues, from whether to approve a downtown casino to how to fund transit expansion.
Now, at least, we have some clarity. Toronto has a mayor. The downside is that the Mayor is Rob Ford. His two years as mayor have been littered with pratfalls and errors of leadership. His accomplishments, from reining in spending to striking deals with city unions to contracting out some garbage collection service, have been overshadowed by his numerous and notorious antics. He has proved a poor leader of city council, unable to build the coalitions or compromises necessary to make city government work. He has often seemed only half interested in his job, showing up late for work and stealing off to coach football in the middle of city council meetings.
All the same, he is the Mayor. The city’s voters elected him just 27 months ago by a broad margin. He has committed no crime or impeachable misdemeanour (though we will see shortly whether he broke campaign-financing rules when he was running for office in 2010).
The best way to remove him is through the ballot box, not the courts. If Rob Ford is to be ousted, let it be in the next election on Oct. 27, 2014.