Toronto councillors are going ahead with a special meeting to vote on a downtown casino, overruling Mayor Rob Ford for the second time in two weeks – this latest to register their opposition to a plan that he has already declared dead.
A majority of councillors have signed their names to a letter requesting the meeting go ahead on Tuesday as planned, reversing a decision made by Mr. Ford Thursday to cancel the special session.
Councillor Mike Layton, a vocal opponent of casino plans, said Friday afternoon that a growing group of councillors from all sides of the political spectrum believe it is important to debate the issue, even if the outcome appears to be a foregone conclusion.
“It’s clear that we don’t want a casino in the City of Toronto and that’s what I think will be the result,” he said.
Going ahead with the special meeting makes sense, he said, since many people have cleared their schedules to attend. Mr. Layton said it did not take much convincing to get support for the meeting from his fellow councillors and dismissed suggestions the move was political posturing.
“We deserve a right to debate the item,” he said.
Mr. Ford on Thursday lashed out at the province for its failure to tell the city what its cut of gambling revenue would be and said he could not support a casino unless Toronto got $100-million in annual hosting fees.
Hours later, news filtered out of Queen’s Park that the province had made a decision on a new casino hosting formula that would give Toronto $53.7-million annually. The new hosting figure includes Toronto’s take from a downtown complex, as well as the slots at Woodbine Racetrack.
Under council rules, a special meeting can be called with 24 to 48 hours notice as long as it has the support of 23 councillors. Mr. Layton said he has made arrangements to deliver the letter to the clerk’s office Sunday in time for an official notice of the meeting to go out.
A majority of councillors also took control of the council agenda earlier this month to force a debate on funding for transit expansion after the mayor tried to delay the discussion.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said he will be in the council chamber Tuesday, but calls the special meeting a waste of staff time and city resources. There is no reason, he said, council could not wait a few weeks until its June meeting to vote on a downtown casino and consider a possible expansion of the existing gambling site at Woodbine Racetrack.
“We will probably take all day to do what we could do in half an hour and tie up staff and all the business of the city just to support what the mayor has already said – the casino is dead,” Mr. Holyday said.