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What can be done about Rob Ford and the crack video

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford briefly speaks to the media responding to allegations that he smoked crack cocaine, at his home in Toronto on May 17, 2013.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

If Toronto Mayor Rob Ford continues to dismiss reports of a video in which he appears to smoke crack cocaine, there seems little that can be done to force the issue.

Josh Matlow, councillor for Ward 22, said that it is possible to add a discussion of the video reports to the agenda of the special council meeting scheduled for Tuesday to debate downtown casino plans, but he doesn't see a "reasonable possibility" it will be brought up.

He nonetheless thinks the mayor should address the video reports, calling the matter an "embarrassing sideshow."

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"I think the sooner the accusations are addressed, the sooner we can move forward as a city," Mr. Matlow said Sunday. "What would be very helpful, as a start, would be if the Mayor would be more open about his take on the story and offer his perspective. That hasn't happened yet."

Mr. Ford's brother Doug, councillor for Ward 2, is usually the mayor's quickest and most vigorous defender. He was silent Thursday and Friday but came to the mayor's defence Saturday, telling radio station Newstalk 1010: "I have never seen my brother involved with anything like coke." The Fords have a Sunday afternoon talk show on Newstalk 1010, but this weekend's episode was cancelled.

On Friday, the day after news of the video broke, Mr. Ford went about his day as scheduled, arriving at city hall, attending a flag-raising event to honour the International Day Against Homophobia and reading a proclamation.

He dismissed the video reports as "ridiculous," but has refused to say any more about it or address calls for his resignation.

If he continues to do so, it is extremely unlikely that he could be forced from office.

Under the City of Toronto Act, which is similar to the Ontario Municipal Act that governs other municipalities in the province, sitting mayors or councillors generally cannot be turfed from their posts unless they miss three months of council meetings without the approval of a resolution of council.

So mayors who do not resign in the event of police investigations, charges or even convictions under the Criminal Code are not tossed out unless they are sentenced to prison for more than three months, said Toronto lawyer John Mascarin of Aird & Berlis LLP, who gives legal advice to municipal politicians.

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The Toronto Police have indicated they have been "monitoring the situation closely," however, have not said they are launching a formal investigation.

Sitting councillors and mayors can also lose their jobs if their posts are deemed vacant by a judge, which is a possible outcome of violations of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, the legislation under which Mr. Ford faced a legal battle last year over donations he solicited for his football charity. He won the case on appeal and held onto his job.

They could also lose their posts if they are convicted of a "corrupt practice" under the Municipal Elections Act, Mr. Mascarin said, but this has never happened.

Otherwise, there are no legal mechanisms to remove a sitting mayor, he said, even if they are convicted of a crime – something many people find surprising.

"Just because you're convicted, doesn't mean you lose your seat. And I think a lot of people have some real difficulty with that," Mr. Mascarin said.

In the event that a mayor is removed from office, city council has the option of calling a by-election or appointing a new mayor. An appointed mayor would need to be nominated by a councillor and then win the support of the majority of council.

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About the Author
Toronto City Hall Reporter

Jeff Gray is The Globe and Mail’s Toronto City Hall reporter. He has worked at The Globe since 1998. From 2010 to 2016, he was the law reporter in Report on Business, covering Bay Street law firms and white-collar crime. He won an honourable mention at the National Magazine Awards for investigative journalism in 2010. More

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