Municipal lawyer George Rust-D'Eye, left has been retained by embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford to provide expert advice to Ford's personal lawyer, Dennis Morris. CBC/Canadian Press composite
A bid by Toronto's city council to whittle down Mayor Rob Ford's powers via a series of special motions could be neutralized by the courts, according to the municipal lawyer hired by Ford.
"What can be done by city council can be undone by the court on an application to quash or an application for judicial review," George Rust-D'Eye told CBC News Network on Saturday.
Ford announced on Friday that he was retaining Rust-D'Eye, a veteran legal expert on municipal law, to advise him should Ford proceed with a court challenge against city council's efforts to curtail his influence on municipal affairs.
Rust-D'Eye's legal fees will be paid out of Ford's pocket.
Speaking with CBC News on Saturday, Rust-D'Eye said the City of Toronto has specific provisions that grant "special powers on the head of council," and that "one would expect that if he has special responsibilities, then he should also be able to exercise those responsibilities and not be hamstrung by city council."
Councillors have already voted on two motions to restrict Ford's powers. On Friday, a 39-3 vote stripped away his ability to hire or fire the deputy mayor and appoint members of his executive committee. Another motion passed 41-2 to remove his authority during emergency situations.
3rd motion expected Monday
A third motion expected on Monday would reduce the mayor's staff and office budget to that of a regular city councillor.
The city council strategy is to render Ford a mayor in name only.
Ford, who is embroiled in a crack cocaine scandal and recently made a crude sexual remark at a live press conference, has said he will fight the motions. Rust-D'Eye will provide municipal advice to the mayor's personal lawyer, Dennis Morris.
"The city council of course has powers to amend or revoke bylaws that it's passed, but at the same time those powers are all subject to the general principle that they cannot act inconsistently with provincial legislation," Rust-D'Eye told CBC's Nancy Wilson on Saturday. "And the provincial legislation in this case is sections 133 and 134 in the City of Toronto Act, which give responsibilities to the mayor."
Rust-D'Eye did acknowledge, however, that it might not be easy to mount a legal battle if Queen's Park intervenes, as municipalities fall under the province's constitutional authority.
"If the province acts within its powers and it does have powers to make regulations or orders respecting municipalities, it would be difficult to challenge," he said.
Rust-D'Eye said any provincial legislation must therefore be "unambiguous" as to whether it has jurisdiction.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne indicated in an address last week that the door to provincial intervention into the turmoil at Toronto's city hall could be open. However, she said the municipality would first have to approach the province seeking "new tools," and that she would feel compelled to consult the leaders of the opposition parties on any potential course of action.
Wynne had previously said she would consider stepping in if the city ceased to function.