A meeting between Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford appears increasingly unlikely after the Premier refused to sit down with the troubled mayor and Mr. Ford backed away from his desire for a face-to-face meeting to discuss ice-storm funding.
Mr. Ford said Wednesday that if the Premier won't meet with him, "at least a phone call" with an answer on the city's funding request will suffice. Earlier this week, the mayor sought a meeting over the $114-million the city is seeking from the provincial and federal governments after the December ice storm and July floods.
"I just need to know: Are we going to get any money, and what amount will that be?" Mr. Ford said Tuesday. "That's very simple. That won't take more than two minutes, or at least a phone call."
Mr. Ford added that he's tried to reach out directly to family friend and federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for help, but was told by his office that he'd have to work through the province.
"I'll take an answer from anyone, even one of you," he told reporters at Toronto City Hall. "Can you find out how much money we're gonna get for Friday's meeting?"
City leaders from across the Greater Toronto Area will be meeting Friday with Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey to discuss ice-storm funding. Mr. Ford is expected to attend that meeting.
At the height of the storm, Ms. Wynne worked directly with Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who had many of the mayor's powers transferred to him late last year. This week, she said she would continue working with Mr. Kelly only.
"I try to take as many meetings as I can, but I really don't have time to meet with everyone, so I need to be strategic about the meetings that I take," Ms. Wynne said. "My responsibility is to meet with the people who can make decisions and who have the responsibility for leadership. In this case, that's Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly."
Last year, city council stripped Mr. Ford of his powers after he admitted to smoking crack cocaine and driving after drinking. Councillors gave his authority and much of his staff to Mr. Kelly.
"This isn't about a political grudge," Ms. Wynne said. "This is about me saying when the city council made a decision to vest authority in Deputy Mayor Kelly, that I was going to meet with Deputy Mayor Kelly."
Toronto Councillor Mike Layton said that Ms. Wynne made the right decision. "The powers were removed from the mayor for a reason, and I think everyone in Toronto – if not around the world – knows why," said Mr. Layton.
Councillor Joe Mihevc called Ms. Wynne "very wise" not to meet with the mayor. "The deputy mayor enjoys the support of city council – uptown, downtown, left, right, centre," he said.
But the mayor had at least some defenders. Mr. Ford remains the head of council, according to a briefing note from the city solicitor. And, although council stripped away many of his powers, it remains Mr. Ford's role to "represent the city locally, nationally and internationally."
"The law is clear about the mayor's role," said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. "If you follow from that, the deputy mayor does not represent the city, and does not represent council when he goes and meets with the Premier."
New Democratic Leader Andrea Horwath also suggested that Ms. Wynne should meet with Mr. Ford out of "courtesy."
"I understand very clearly that city council made a decision in regards to specific leadership issues," she said. "But when a municipal mayor is requesting a meeting with the Premier, I think it's common courtesy."
With a report from Elizabeth Church