Toronto Mayor Rob Ford poses for photos with fans as he attends the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats CFL Eastern Conference final football game in Toronto on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette The Canadian Press
Toronto councillors are in the midst of considering further steps to limit the powers of embattled Mayor Rob Ford, whose credibility has been shaken by a drug-related scandal that has put pressure on him to resign.
At Toronto City Hall, councillors are considering a motion that has changed from when it was originally tabled, though it still spells out additional proposed restrictions on the mayor and his powers of office.
On Monday afternoon, the mayor demanded to know whether Coun. John Filion was aware the council could not "impeach or remove its elected mayor" and if that is what he wanted to see happen.
"Mayor Ford, my preference was that you not place us in this position," Filion said.
"What’s before us is what council can legitimately do."
The mayor’s brother, Coun. Doug Ford, complained that they did not receive adequate notice of the changes to the motion.
"Do you know when we ended up getting this motion? Twenty-six minutes before the meeting," he said.
Soon after the Ford brothers spoke, the council speaker called for a 10-minute recess, during which time the mayor went to the front row of the public gallery to talk to people sitting there and to pose for some pictures.
During that same break, the mayor quickly accelerated into a section of the viewing gallery and apparently ended up bumping into Coun. Pam McConnell and she nearly hit the ground.
It was not immediately clear where Ford was headed when he collided with the councillor.
'It was a complete accident'
When the council meeting resumed, Coun. Paula Fletcher asked the mayor if he knew that McConnell had suffered "a swollen lip" during the collision.
"I ran around because I thought my brother was getting into an altercation," Ford said.
"I apologized and then I picked her up, I do apologize."
Fletcher disagreed with the mayor’s characterization that he picked up McConnell, saying she believed that the mayor's staff helped pick up McConnell.
Fletcher called on the mayor to apologize.
"It was a complete accident, I do sincerely apologize to you, Coun. McConnell," Ford said, after first attempting to apologize to "anybody that I offended when I rushed to my brother’s defence."
Upon arriving at city hall earlier in the day, Coun. Ford repeated his pledge to fight council's actions in court.
"This is a modern-day overthrow of an elected official. This is wrong," he told reporters.
"This is what you see in Third World nations … This is a modern-day coup d'état."
Coun. Ford added that the mayor is getting professional help and has not had any alcohol for three weeks.
Council has already taken steps to restrict Ford’s powers in recent days, amid a high-profile scandal that has seen the mayor admit to having smoked crack cocaine, to buying illegal drugs and to other behaviours he has deemed embarrassing to have revealed.
Mayor vows to continue in role
Three days ago, council voted overwhelmingly in favour of stripping the mayor of his ability to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor and key committee members. In a separate vote, they also removed his ability to exercise emergency powers.
On the weekend, Ford appeared prepared to press forward at city hall, no matter what council may do on Monday.
"I'm going to continue to fight for the little guy. I'm going to continue to save taxpayers money. And if the councillors want to strip all my powers, that's up to them," Ford told the U.S.-based Fox News.
Despite the looming court battle, and speculation to the contrary, the Fords will not seek an immediate injunction to block Monday's motion, according to George Rust-D'Eye, the mayor's municipal lawyer.
"There's just not the time or the urgency," Rust-D'Eye said Monday on CBC News Network.
"I would have to look at [the motion's] actual impact on the mayor's statutory duties," as they are spelled out in provincial law, he said.
Ford also taped an interview with CNN, during which he mingled with supporters in a neighbourhood in Etobicoke — the Toronto suburb where he served as a city councillor before being elected mayor, and where he still lives — and repeated his claims he has been unfairly targeted by the media. Things turned testy, however, when Ford was pressed about his initial denial, and eventual admission, of drug use.
"Typical media, you're all the same, cut from the same cloth," he told CNN's Bill Weir.
Coun. Ford, standing nearby, tried to get his brother to calm down.
Mayor Ford apparently cursed during the interview — a seeming echo of last week's gaffe, the use of a profane expression during a media scrum — though his exact words were bleeped out. He immediately apologized for swearing in the presence of children.
Hudak says province would consider stepping in
On Monday, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak commented on the Ford scandal, echoing Premier Kathleen Wynne's comments that the province should consider acting if the city ceases to function properly.
Hudak said, however, that it must be council, not the province, that takes the lead on any action to remove Ford.
"If the city says it legitimately cannot function, then we do have an obligation at the provincial level within the powers that we have to ensure some clarity and stability."
But Conservative MPP and Ford's former deputy mayor, Doug Holyday, appeared to disagree with his party leader, and said it would be a "slippery slope" for the province to step in. Holyday also said council's moves to limit Ford's power have gone too far.
Judge declines motion to view alleged crack video
In other related news, on Monday, a judge dismissed an application to view the video by one of three young men who stand beside Ford in a now-famous photo.
Last week, Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer viewed the video and on Monday ruled against Muhammad Khattak's motion to view it.
Khattak's lawyer, who says his client does not appear in the alleged crack video, had argued that news reports about the scandal have harmed his client's reputation.
Khattak is one of three alleged gang members who appear with Ford in a photo that was distributed by people trying to sell the video. In that photo, Khattak stands beside Ford and two other men outside what police information describes as a crack house.
Khattak was arrested in June during a series of police raids called Project Traveller that targeted suspected gun and drug traffickers. Khattak is charged with drug trafficking and participating in a gang.
Ford has been at the centre of an extraordinary November at city hall. The mayor has made a number of surprising admissions, apologies and responses that have captured the attention of those living in Toronto and many others around the world.
The mayor admitted to having smoked crack cocaine since taking office, as well as to having purchased illegal drugs in the past two years. Ford has also made apologies for "mistakes," some of which were alcohol-related and included getting "hammered" at a street festival this past summer.
Also during this time, a bizarre video surfaced showing the mayor ranting and swearing. Ford apologized, saying that he was "extremely, extremely inebriated," though he did not clarify the circumstances under which it was recorded. The Toronto Star paid to obtain the video, which it published on its website.
Coupled with his admissions have been apologies. Ford has repeatedly indicated he is sorry for various behaviours, while also reiterating the fact that he cannot change the past.
Ford has also talked about the pressure he has felt for months, after reports emerged that someone had been shopping a video that allegedly showed the mayor using crack cocaine.
The mayor long denied those reports, as well as denying that he used crack cocaine. But after the city’s police chief revealed on Oct. 31 that investigators had obtained a copy of a video that was consistent with media reports, Ford began calling for its release and eventually admitted that he had indeed smoked crack cocaine.
The drama surrounding the mayor has been covered by media around the world and has made Ford’s name frequently referenced on late-night talk shows. On the weekend, Saturday Night Live had a skit that centred on the mayor.
Ford, 44, is just three years into his term as mayor. He intends to run for re-election, and has predicted the upcoming campaign will be "a bloodbath."