Rob Ford, the political scrapper who rose from a lone-wolf Etobicoke councillor to mayor of Canada’s largest city, spent what could be his last day in office saying he was resigned to his fate.
“I look forward to it. I believe in the judicial system and hope for the best,” Mr. Ford said of his appeal in a conflict of interest case, in which the decision will be made public Friday morning.
If Mr. Ford wins his court battle, some of his closest allies say he will need to use the political second-life to change his ways for the remaining two years of his term.
If Mr. Ford loses his court battle, the future is less clear. Councillors will be faced with three choices: reappoint the mayor, appoint someone else to fill that role, or call a by-election and let the voters decide.
Further complicating matters is an audit of Mayor Ford’s 2010 election finances that auditor Bruce Armstrong said he plans to deliver some time next week – a document that could also lead to Mr. Ford’s removal of office.
Of the nearly 30 councillors The Globe and Mail has heard from, 13 said they would lean toward an appointment of a mayor, if Mr. Ford loses. Some, such as Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, Norm Kelly, and Frank Di Giorgio, believe Mr. Ford should get his job back – though mustering the 23 votes to get that through council appears to be a long shot.
Others favour a different appointment. Josh Matlow has thrown his support behind former mayor David Crombie. Some councillors, such as Raymond Cho, said they did not have a specific person in mind for appointment, while Gloria Lindsay Luby has said she would be a good choice.
Eight councillors have said they are leaning toward a by-election. That includes Glenn De Baeremaeker, who Wednesday said he was “definitely 100 per cent undecided,” but Thursday said he would prefer a by-election because it puts the decision in the hands of the voters.
The rest of the councillors the Globe heard from were either undecided, or did not wish to disclose their preference.
The situation can quickly change and within city hall Thursday more councillors appeared willing to go on the record with their by-election support, a sign the momentum might be swinging in that favour.
“That’s where I’m leaning, because I really don’t want to see backroom arm-twisting, deal-making around an appointments process that the public will have no access to,” Councillor Janet Davis said Thursday, one day after she declined to disclose her preference.
Mr. Holyday, who will pick up the mayor’s duties at least temporarily if Mr. Ford is removed from office, offered advice to the mayor, should he hold onto his job.
“You can’t make it easy for people to attack you and be critical of you,” he said, rhyming off a list of actions he’d like Mr. Ford to take, such as hiring a driver, curbing his high school football coaching duties and showing up for meetings.
“You have to make sacrifices, but that comes with the territory. It’s part of the job,” he said. “You took the responsibility of making major decisions on behalf of the city and you must be there to do it.”
Mark Towhey, the mayor’s chief of staff, several times Thursday tweeted the number 383,501 – the number of votes the mayor received in 2010 – along with the hashtag #RespectDemocracy, in what could be a preview of the argument they will make should the mayor lose his appeal.
Mr. Ford, in November, was found guilty of violating the provincial Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. His appeal was heard earlier this month. The decision will be posted online at 10:30 a.m. The parties in the case will see it one hour before.
The mayor’s legal troubles began last February when he voted to let himself off the hook for failing to repay $3,150 in improper donations to the Rob Ford Football Foundation, which provides football equipment for underprivileged high school students.
Asked Thursday if the situation has been stressful, Mr. Ford responded: “Obviously.”
“But you roll with the punches and what will be will be,” he said, ducking back to his City Hall office after the 40-second media availability.