CORRECTS TO SUPPORTER Toronto Mayor Rob Ford poses with a supporter while signing hundreds bobble head dolls in his likeness for charity at City Hall in Toronto on Tuesday November 12, 2013THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn The Canadian Press
A symbolic showdown full of pre-game rhetoric looms at Toronto City Hall today, with councillors set to debate a motion calling on Mayor Rob Ford to take a leave of absence amid the drug-related scandal that has roiled the city for months.
Ford has defied all calls to take a break from his job, despite the admission he smoked crack cocaine while serving as mayor and to other high-profile "mistakes," some of them alcohol-related.
On Wednesday, he faces a motion requesting that the mayor apologize for some of his actions and take a leave of absence to address his personal issues.
The mayor has made the motion his key item at Wednesday’s council meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m. ET. On Tuesday he cited an iconic boxing match, insisting Wednesday's session would be City Hall's "rumble in the jungle."
Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, a longtime mayoral ally who has become a vocal critic of Ford as the drug scandal unfolded in recent months, prepared the motion that council will debate.
Ford should step aside "for his own good, but also for the good of the city," Minnan-Wong said Wednesday morning on CBC's Metro Morning. "He's hurt our city's reputation and there's going to be more information that's going to come out that will hurt the city even more."
The councillor has spoken to his colleagues and earlier said he believes "they're shocked, they're disappointed, they're surprised and they would like something to happen."
Yet even if the motion passes, Ford will not be obliged to take the leave requested.
Nor, said Coun. Gord Perks, is there anything on the books that would allow Ford to take a break.
"There's nothing in law that allows the mayor of Toronto to take a leave of absence," Perks said, also on Metro Morning. "If he doesn't show up for work, he's still the mayor."
Perks said he will vote against the motion, in part because "we know the mayor is not going to listen to us, and the last thing we need now is to take measures that further disempower council." Perks would rather see the matter referred to the province's integrity commissioner.
Coun. Shelley Carroll, a critic of the mayor, predicted that he may be surprised by the number of councillors who have concerns about Ford, as well as the information that police gathered on him during a lengthy investigation that led to one of his friends being charged with extortion.
The motion being debated Wednesday also calls on the mayor to co-operate with the police investigation, some details of which have become public through the partial disclosure of documents in court.
Months of questions
Throughout his three years at the helm of the city government, Ford has constantly made headlines for his political stances, his outbursts and for events in his private life.
Questions about his personal drug use have raged for months, after the Toronto Star and the U.S. gossip website Gawker each reported that someone had been shopping a video that showed Ford smoking crack cocaine.
Ford long denied both using the drug and the video’s existence. But after Toronto police Chief Bill Blair revealed at the end of October that his investigators had seized a video of the mayor that was consistent with prior media reports, Ford began calling for that video’s release.
The mayor also made apologies for mistakes such as getting "hammered" at the Taste of the Danforth street festival and to drunkenness after hours at city hall on St. Patrick’s Day last year.
Just over a week ago, Ford publicly admitted that he had smoked crack cocaine. The mayor said he was sorry, but that he intended to carry on and that he had "nothing left to hide."
Two days later, the Toronto Star published a bizarre video on its website that showed Ford swearing and ranting. The mayor told reporters he was "extremely, extremely inebriated" on the video, though he did not explain the circumstances under which it was recorded.
Despite the string of surprising statements, apologies and admissions from the mayor, Ford has shown no inclination to step aside. He gave a scheduled address on Remembrance Day and told a supporter he’s "not going anywhere." A day later, Ford spent hours signing lookalike bobbleheads, which are being sold to raise money for the United Way.
The mayor still has a year to go in his current mandate. He has repeatedly said he will run for re-election, though he has predicted the coming campaign will be "a bloodbath."
Controversy has followed Ford
Ford, 44, came to power vowing to watch taxpayers' money and to "stop the gravy train," a rallying cry he has often invoked to describe his intent to rein in waste and spending by the city.
And while Ford has claimed some victories along the way, seeing the city reach key labour deals and the partial privatization of trash pickup in Toronto, he has struggled to lead the divided council that surrounds him.
Ford’s attempt to kill the controversial plastic-bag “tax” nearly led to an outright ban of single-use bags in general. In the end, the mandatory levy on disposable bags was ended and the proposed ban was shelved — in part, due to legal concerns that the mayor had predicted.
Barely a year into his term, Ford weathered a conflict-of-interest challenge that nearly forced him from his job. But he won an appeal that reversed a judge’s order to remove him from office.
Ford also faced a defamation lawsuit that related to remarks he made on a radio station while running for mayor. He also triumphed in court in that case, when the lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
A noted football fan, Ford previously coached a team at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School while holding down the job as mayor. He lost that opportunity when the school board said it would go in a different direction this year after reviewing remarks the mayor made on a television station.
The mayor served as a city councillor for a decade before he was elected as chief magistrate.
He lives in Etobicoke, a Toronto suburb, with his wife and two young children.