In a historic showdown, Rob Ford faces formal repudiation Monday from Toronto city council, which will vote on a motion stripping him of virtually all of his powers as mayor, after three tumultuous weeks of disclosures over his use of crack cocaine and alcohol.
Councillors say they easily have the majority needed to reduce Mr. Ford to essentially a figurehead, whose influence will largely be limited to the single vote he can cast. Last week, council voted to peel away some of the mayor’s other powers.
The move at council comes after a weekend in which Mr. Ford tried to rehabilitate his shattered public image in forums far away from City Hall: the taping of a new Canadian TV program, a boisterous reception at the Toronto Argonauts football game – and appearances taped for U.S. cable news.
In a one-on-one interview broadcast on Fox News on Sunday evening, Mr. Ford said that he harbours hopes of becoming Canada’s top politician – “One day, I do want to run for Prime Minister” – even if he is staring down the barrel of a humiliating defeat. “If the councillors want to strip me of my powers, that is up to them,” he said.
Facing this unprecedented revolt, Mr. Ford spent Saturday speaking to a lawyer about his legal options before deciding against doing anything immediately. “Put it this way: At no time was I planning an injunction and at no time did I get instructions to prepare for one,” lawyer George Rust-D’Eye told The Globe late Sunday. But Mr. Rust-D’Eye said the mayor still may take legal action after the vote.
Earlier Sunday, the mayor and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, pretaped several television broadcasts, including Sunday’s Fox News interview and other segments to be broadcast on Canada’s Sun News and U.S.-based CNN on Monday.
This month, the mayor has publicly apologized for having smoked crack cocaine, for having had several “drunken stupors,” and for having made vulgar remarks. The controversies have made the mayor the butt of jokes on late-night television shows – including the opening sketch of Saturday Night Live – and turned almost all of his political allies at city hall against him.
On Friday, council approved by a lopsided margin two motions that strip the mayor of his power to appoint standing committee chairs and to limit his powers in an emergency.
Some of Toronto’s city councillors now speak of building a “firewall” around the mayor. The motion to be heard on Monday seeks to “delegate to the deputy mayor all powers and duties which are not by statute assigned to the mayor.” It would also kick him off of any council committees, adding that if he attends, he would not “enjoy the rights and privileges of other committee members when present at a committee meeting.”
One of Mr. Ford’s former allies on council says there is no doubt that the Monday motion will pass just as easily as those on Friday. “Council is focused and we know what needs to be done” said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. “I’m expecting that council will do the right thing and adopt the motions that are in front of it.”
On television, the mayor appears to be doing his best to stay upbeat. “We’re going to move forward,” Mr. Ford told Fox correspondent John Roberts on Sunday night. “I’m going to continue to fight for the little guy, I’m going to continue to save taxpayers’ money.
He told the U.S. network he is trying to get in better physical and mental shape. “I’m in a gym for two hours every day. I am seeking professional help,” Mr. Ford said. “I am not an alcoholic.”
He repeated what’s now become a mantra – that he will stay in office until he runs for re-election next October.
Doug Ford said that in trampling on the mayor’s rights, council would reinvigorate his support base. “We can’t wait for the election. The people are going to decide,” he told reporters.