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Do-or-die casino meeting a go as councillors defy Rob Ford

Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford greets the crowd before speaking in front of unionized workers prior to chairing the executive committee hearing at Toronto City Hall as they debate the proposed Casino for city on Monday April 15 , 2013

Chris Young For The Globe and Mai

A petition signed by 24 Toronto city councillors has reversed Mayor Rob Ford's decision to cancel a special meeting to debate a downtown casino.

Council is expected to kill the downtown casino idea outright at this meeting, but a new gambling facility at Woodbine could still be a possibility.

The meeting will go ahead as originally planned at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday as the petition was filed to the city clerk's office Sunday. Mr. Ford announced last week that the meeting was cancelled, saying there was no point having a divisive debate on the issue if the province was not prepared to give Toronto the $100-million annual hosting fee it was seeking. The province has since released its formula for hosting fees, which would give Toronto $53.7-million annually.

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When the mayor cancelled the meeting Thursday he said: "If the province won't agree to that $100-million, then, folks, the deal is dead." Since then, he has said little about the casino or any issues, as the focus of the mayor's office has shifted to a video that allegedly appears to show him smoking crack. In his only public statements since Thursday, Mr. Ford called reports of the video "ridiculous."

A special meeting requires the support of at least 23 councillors and must be called with 24 to 48 hours notice.

Signatories of the petition that allowed the meeting to be revived include: Mike Layton, who led the charge to debate the issue; Paul Ainslie; John Filion; Karen Stintz; Adam Vaughan; Kristyn Wong-Tam; Janet Davis; Maria Augimeri, Mary Fragedakis; Josh Matlow; Mary-Margaret McMahon; Shelley Carroll; Sarah Doucette; Gord Perks; Ana Bailao; Joe Mihevc; Pam McConnell; Gloria Lindsay Luby; John Parker; Josh Colle; Jaye Robinson; Raymond Cho; Glenn De Baermaeker and Michelle Berardinetti.

Mr. Colle signed the petition, after saying he was a "reluctant" yes on whether there should be a casino downtown.

Mr. Layton said last week that 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.

Since the ouster of Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. chair Paul Godfrey – a major proponent of building a casino in Toronto's downtown – and the resignation of the OLG's board of directors last week, there are questions about whether and how the Wynne government will proceed with the expansion of casinos in the province.

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The agenda for Tuesday's meeting is posted on the city's website.

With files from Elizabeth Church and Sunny Dhillon

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