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Toronto Ford says voters, not court, should decide his fate

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, a politician famous for squeezing every penny, is scheduled to testify in open court next week.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Mayor Rob Ford doesn't "think it's right" that a court, not the electorate, could fire him.

In his first public comments since a judge ordered him to testify at a conflict-of-interest hearing next week, Mr. Ford said the voters should decide whether or not he loses his job.

"If you don't like what I'm doing, there's an election Oct. 27, 2014," Mr. Ford told Newstalk 1010 radio Tuesday. "It's two years away, then have your say. I don't think it's right what's going on. But I've got to watch what I say so I can't say too much."

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The mayor is facing a lawsuit that alleges he broke the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he voted to let himself off the hook for failing to repay more than $3,000 in improper donations to his football charity.

The lawsuit was filed by Paul Magder, a politically active Toronto resident who volunteered on the school trustee campaign of Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler, an opponent of the mayor.

If found guilty, Mr. Ford would automatically be ousted from the mayor's office. The court could also ban him from running again for up to seven years.

"If I lose the court case, I guess I lose my job," Mr. Ford told the radio audience. "I don't know, it really bothers me. So [I] just hope for the best."

As part of his efforts to keep the mayor in office, his lawyer is offering a backup defence that $3,150 is an "insignificant" sum for Mr. Ford, a politician famous for squeezing every penny.

"The amount of money involved, $3,150, when considered against the $167,770 salary of the mayor, is insignificant," Mr. Ford's lawyer, Alan Lenczner, argues in a factum dated Aug. 16.

"It is also inconsequential when weighed against the consequences of the [Municipal Conflict of Interest] Act."

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The size of the dollar figure is the last of four defences laid out in the factum.

The first two are technical legal arguments: Namely, that the MCIA does not apply to breaches of council's code of conduct; and that council did not have the authority to order Mr. Ford to repay the $3,150 in the first place. The only two penalties for breaching the code of conduct laid out in the City of Toronto Act are a reprimand or a suspension of pay for up to 90 days.

If the judge rejects those arguments, the defence will argue Mr. Ford made an honest error of judgment when he delivered a speech and voted Feb. 7.

If that fails, the lawyers plan to raise the size of the sum.

"No objectively reasonable person could conclude that the respondent, a city councillor for 10 years and mayor for two years would jeopardize his position for $3,150 …" Mr. Lenczner writes.

Live testimony from a defendant in an MCIA case is rare.

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Compelling Mr. Ford to defend himself viva voce, "requires leave of the Court, which amply demonstrates that it is the exception, not the rule," according to a June 19 defence factum that argued the mayor should not have to take the stand.

On Friday, an Ottawa judge ordered Mr. Ford to testify live after Clayton Ruby, the lawyer arguing the case on behalf of Mr. Magder, raised questions about the mayor's "credibility" during a private June 28 cross-examination.

When Mr. Ruby tried to ask Mr. Ford about past dishonesty, Mr. Lenczner advised the mayor not to answer.

"Would you agree with me that you tell lies from time to time, especially when you're caught acting wrongly? Is that true?" Mr. Ruby asked Mr. Ford, according to a transcript of the cross-examination. "For your assistance, I want to focus first on the Maple Leafs game of April 15, 2006, where he got drunk and lied about being there, and had to apologize for the lie."

"I'm not going to let you go into that," Mr. Lenczner said.

"You have a criminal record, as I understand it, for driving?" Mr. Ruby continued.

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"Don't answer that," Mr. Lenczner interjected.

"And you lied to a Toronto Sun reporter about a marijuana charge in Florida."

"Don't answer that," Mr. Lenczner said.

Mr. Lenczner argued in the Aug. 16 factum that such questions have nothing to do with the legal issues at play. "They are irrelevant and designed to embarrass," he wrote.

If the court removes Mr. Ford from office, city council would have to either appoint someone to serve out his term or call a by-election for mayor.

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