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Toronto Argument scuttles Toronto council meeting after Speaker warns councillors to mind their manners

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford talk with Speaker Frances Nunziata at City Hall on Nov 13, 2013.

MOE DOIRON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Just days after Toronto City Council Speaker Frances Nunziata sent a letter asking her colleagues to mind their manners, she was forced to abruptly adjourn a meeting because of arguing in the council chamber.

"This wasn't our finest hour," Councillor John Parker said after the meeting came to a sudden end around 8 p.m. in the middle of a vote.

Speaker Nunziata ended the meeting after she asked Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who she called "disruptive," to leave the chamber. Councillor Mammoliti, who objected to city staff giving their advice between votes on the council floor, refused. Shortly after, she called the meeting to an end.

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"There was no yelling. You can see the tapes for yourself," Mr. Mammoliti said. "There was no screaming. It was a discussion between me and Councillor Vaughan."

The adjournment comes just days after Ms. Nunziata issued a reminder late Friday to her colleagues, asking them to mind their manners.

"Disruptive, disrespectful and unparliamentarily behaviour reflects poorly on City Council, and undermines public confidence in our ability to govern," said the letter sent to the mayor and councillors.

The letter includes a list of council responsibilities including "speaking respectfully at all times, listening and participating in the meeting, without disrupting the proceedings and using appropriate language."

As the meeting began the deputy mayor also asked councillors to behave.

But earlier Monday, some councillors lay blame at Ms. Nunziata's own feet for the chaos that broke out last month on the council floor during an emotional series of meetings in which councillors voted to transfer most of the mayor's powers to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.

Councillor Adam Vaughan, a frequent critic of the mayor, said Ms. Nunziata, a Ford ally, needs to do a better job at keeping a lid on behaviour in the chamber.

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"If we had an impartial chair who treated members with as much respect as she seems to think she deserves we wouldn't have half the problems we have," Mr. Vaughan said as he headed to council.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a former ally of the mayor and a member of his executive committee, said he thinks all councillors can learn from their mistakes.

Mr. Minnan-Wong, who put forward last month's motion that asked for Mr. Ford to take a leave and apologize for his behaviour, was approached twice by the mayor in a way the councillor described as a threatening manner during the debate.

"I thought I handled myself appropriately and stayed in my chair. I didn't take the bait," he said. "I think the mayor was acting like a schoolyard bully and I thought that was highly inappropriate."

As for Ms. Nunziata's request, Mr. Minnan-Wong responded: "I think if she wants the rest of council to act with a certain level of decorum, leadership starts from the speaker's chair."

But on Monday, Ms. Nunziata denied that she was to blame for council's behaviour, and that she allowed the mayor and Councillor Ford to get away with bad behaviour because of her relationship with the Ford family.

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"I called the mayor and Councillor Ford numerous times. I asked Councillor Ford to apologize and the mayor to apologize. Both of them," she said. "I think I'm being very fair to all members of council."

She added that she spoke with both Mayor Ford and Councillor Ford privately after the council meeting, and that they were "very apologetic and they agreed their behaviour was really inappropriate."

By Monday afternoon, Ms. Nunziata said it appeared most councillors had read her memo. "I'm pleased. It seems quiet so far."

This is the last meeting before the lengthy municipal election period that begins in January and Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby predicted emotions will rise again during that time.

Last month, Mr. Ford knocked over Councillor Pam McConnell on the council floor as he raced to the side of his brother Councillor Doug Ford. During the debate the mayor also walked along the bottom of the public gallery with his driver following behind taking video of the crowd on a cellphone while Mr. Ford made comments to the public.

As voices were raised and councillors shouted for the Speaker to stop the mayor, Ms. Nunziata called a recess, a move some councillors have said led to even more bad behaviour. It was during that recess that the mayor ran into Ms. McConnell.

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In her letter Ms. Nunziata acknowledges that council has faced exceptionally tense times, but asked for calm going forward. "We completed a set of extraordinary meetings last month and I know it has been an emotionally charged period," she writes in her letter.

"We have nine scheduled meetings left between now and the end of term. While I encourage each member to carry out their duties with the necessary passion and intensity that is required by our positions, I am seeking everyone's co-operation so that we do so in a way that is consistent with parliamentary tradition and our own rules of conduct," the letter says.

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