Should the provincial government step in to help oust Mayor Rob Ford?
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong argues that unless Mr. Ford agrees to take a leave of absence, city council should pass a resolution this week petitioning Queen's Park to take action. It is a tempting idea – and a bad one.
It is easy to see why Mr. Minnan-Wong and many of his fellow councillors are frustrated. Despite the scandal Mr. Ford has unleashed on the city, he has stubbornly refused to step down or, so far, even take some time to get help.
City council has no power to remove him on its own. It is not a parliamentary system, so council can't hold a non-confidence vote. There are no political parties at the city level, so Mr. Ford can't be ousted by members of his caucus.
There is no impeachment process or provision for a recall vote. Unless the mayor is convicted and sentenced to jail, he can't be removed on legal grounds, and the mayor does not face criminal charges in any case.
Mr. Minnan-Wong says that, with city council hog-tied, it is up to the province to act, using its power as the senior level of government to pass legislation allowing for the removal of a sitting mayor. That's possible in theory; the laws that govern cities are made by the province. But it would set a dreadful precedent. We don't want higher governments arranging to fire democratically elected mayors – even disgraced ones – just because they can.
Far better to put maximum pressure on Mr. Ford to leave on his own. What is called for is a full-court press – a united demand from political leaders, business leaders, community leaders and the general public for Mr. Ford to depart. Toronto is being far too polite. A citizens group is holding a Save Toronto rally at noon on Wednesday in Nathan Phillips Square. Organizers want a big turnout.
Mr. Ford's fellow conservatives, from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to provincial Opposition Leader Tim Hudak, have a special responsibility to tell him to do the right thing. His family friend, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, was publicly moved by Mr. Ford's plight. Let's hope that along with the understandable sympathy, he delivers some strong words of advice.
Mr. Minnan-Wong is right about one thing: This cannot go on. What if the mayor is called on to give an address on drugs and crime? What if he needs to represent Toronto in an effort to bring investors here? The mayor who has every kid in the city talking about crack cocaine even wants to walk in the Santa Claus parade, it was reported on Monday.
As we all know now, Mr. Ford smoked crack while mayor, deceived the city about it for months, consorted with a suspected drug dealer, delivered a vulgar tirade caught on a newly released video, showed up "hammered" to a Danforth festival and was drunk and disorderly at a City Hall St. Patrick's Day party. He wants to keep his job regardless.
And yet this is a man who suggested only last month that a city worker should be fired for putting his head on his desk to sleep. When it was suggested that the worker may have been on a break, Mr. Ford said, "I don't want to hear these excuses." Now, he wants the city to excuse him because he is "not perfect" and "the past is in the past."
Given who he is, it's not certain whether even concerted pressure from all quarters would make him go. But as maddening as it is to see him thumb his nose at his critics and go on as if nothing has happened, there is no quick procedural fix for the Ford problem. The best way to make him go is through persuasion, not legislation.