Chaotic Toronto meeting debates curbs to Mayor Ford’s powers
Embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford shouted at hecklers and nearly knocked down a city councilor in a raucous meeting on Monday as the City Council debated imposing further limits on Ford’s power.
The mayor’s brother, City Councillor Doug Ford, denounced the meeting as a “coup d’etat” to depose Ford, who has been under fire after admitting to smoking crack cocaine, buying illegal drugs and driving after drinking alcohol.
With Ford resisting calls to resign, City Council members on Monday discussed debated slashing his office budget and giving his deputy more power. On Friday the council had suspended Ford’s authority to dismiss the deputy mayor and the heads of council committees, and removed his powers to act during emergencies.
Ford stalked around the meeting room on Monday, getting into an angry verbal exchange with gallery spectators, some of whom shouted “Shame! Shame!” at him. At one point he ran across the room and collided with Councillor Pam McConnell, almost knocking her over. He later apologized.
At one stage, the mayor mimed drinking and driving – apparently a jab at a councillor whose license was briefly suspended after a roadside breathalyzer test. A video clip spread quickly on social media.
The council cannot remove Ford from office or strip him of roles laid out in provincial law, such as representing the city at events, but it has been looking for ways to limit him.
“What we’re doing is saying to our deputy mayor, please represent our city until 2014, because we trust you more than we trust the mayor,” Councillor Karen Stintz told reporters. Stintz, once a Ford ally, now plans to run against him in the October 2014 election.
Councilors were expected to vote later on Monday on motions that would name Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly as the leader of the city’s cabinet-like executive committees, instead of Ford.
“They’re trying to pull a coup d’etat and overthrow an elected official,” Doug Ford told reporters.
Ford’s lawyer, George Rust-D’Eye, was more circumspect. If the mayor cannot carry out roles mandated by provincial law because of the council’s decisions, a court could intervene, he said.
Ford, who told Fox News that he hopes to run for prime minister one day, recently admitted he has driven after consuming alcohol. And in 1999 he was arrested for impaired driving while on vacation in Florida, and pleaded no contest.
Doug Ford, meanwhile, brought a motion – later ruled out of order – that would call a snap mayoral election, something the mayor also has sought.
The revelations about Ford, which started in May when two media outlets said they had seen video of him smoking from what appeared to be a crack pipe, have thrust Toronto into the international spotlight.
A new television show featuring the mayor and his brother is set to debut on Monday evening on Canada’s right-wing Sun News Network. The network is touting new confessions from “the most wanted man in news.”
CNN will air a taped interview with the mayor at the same time, 8 p.m. Monday. CNN said on its website that the network also spoke with Doug Ford, who addressed allegations he trafficked drugs in the 1980s.
Doug Ford denied a report published in May by the Globe and Mail newspaper that he sold hashish for several years in the 1980s. But he said he did offer small quantities of marijuana to friends.
“Thirty-one years ago. I smoked marijuana. I didn’t deal marijuana. If you want to go calling, you know, going to your buddy and saying, ‘Here is a joint for 10 bucks.’ If that’s what you want to call (dealing), so be it,” he said, according to CNN.