TORONTO - Questions are being raised about an all-or-nothing provision in a previously little-known "draconian" law that was thrust into the spotlight Monday after it was used to unseat the mayor of Canada's largest city.
A judge ordered Toronto Mayor Rob Ford ousted after he found him guilty of violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. Judge Charles Hackland slammed Ford for voting on a matter in which he had a financial interest.
But the judge also raised concerns with the legislation by which he was bound. Under the act, a violation of the act must lead to the politician losing his or her seat. With few exceptions the judge cannot exercise discretion on deciding an appropriate penalty.
"The mandatory removal from office for contravening s. 5(1) of the MCIA is a very blunt instrument and has attracted justified criticism and calls for legislative reform," Hackland wrote.
Toronto's former integrity commissioner David Mullan several years ago described the provision as a "sledgehammer," Hackland noted.
"The city should make every endeavour to persuade the provincial government to either modernize the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act or confer on the city of Toronto authority to create its own conflict of interest regime in place of or supplementary to that act," Mullan said in 2006.
Mullan called it "Byzantine" for the mandatory penalty to be removing the politician from office, no matter the severity of the conflict.
"The problem presented...is that it does not allow for appropriately broad consideration of the seriousness of the contravention or of the circumstances surrounding the contravention."
An exception is built into the act so that a municipal politician found to have violated the act inadvertently will not lose his or her job.
Hackland is not the only judge to have publicly decried the lack of a range of penalties in the act. Ontario Superior Court Associate Chief Justice Douglas Cunningham said last year that "middle ground" options are needed in the act.
"As it currently stands, the sanctions available under the MCIA are draconian," Cunningham wrote in his final report in a conflict of interest inquiry involving Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga, Ont.
Cunningham recommended that judges also be able to suspend a politician, put them on some form of probation, remove them from certain roles such as the head of a committee, reprimand them or order them to apologize.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty showed little appetite for amending the act when asked about it Monday.
"That's something for the appropriate ministry to take a look at if they think that might be of some value, but there's nothing that strikes me as being of an emergency nature here," he said.
"I gather it's an act we inherited so I can't speak to the ideas and policies that ultimately inform that legislation."
A spokeswoman for Bob Chiarelli, the minister of municipal affairs and housing, said the ministry is reviewing the act "and is always open to considering recommendations from municipalities and stakeholders."
"We respect the judge's decision in this case," Kelly Baker said in a statement. "It's up to the city of Toronto to determine next steps on how to fill the vacancy on council."
High-profile Toronto lawyer Marie Henein compared the law to the controversial mandatory minimum sentences. The federal government under Stephen Harper has brought in several new mandatory minimum sentences for various crimes that critics have decried as stripping the discretionary power of judges, who are in the best position to evaluate on a case-by-case basis.
"It's a very confining provision because it doesn't focus on the extent of the transgression, how bad the conduct is, when determining what the appropriate penalty is because it's only removal," Henein said.
"That will be the issue, I think, on appeal as to whether or not it is a correct reading of that provision or whether there is another way to read it."
Decisions under the act that see politicians removed from office are "reasonably rare," said lawyer Stephen D'Agostino, who specializes in municipal law. In part, that is because the only way to haul a politician in court under the act is for a citizen to launch an action.
It costs an "inordinate amount of money" to do so and with municipalities footing the legal bills for politicians who are not found guilty under the act, it leaves an "uneven financial playing field," D'Agostino said.
"It's a matter that really cries out for legislative reform," he said.
"We have all kinds of matters where there are provincial agencies and officials that do hands-on investigations — privacy (commissioner) is an example...I see no reason why you wouldn't want to take this burden off the individual voter and (put onto) the provincial agency or ombudsman."
Related on HuffPost:
Sorry this #fordcourt verdict is taking so long. The judge was coaching football this morning and will get around to it soon.
Rob Ford got kicked out of mayors office? WOWWWWW!! Hes hopping on that gravy train right back home.
rip rob ford. stung by a hoard of vicious gravy wasps.
Now I await all Rob Ford memes. #topoli #comeatmebro
Oh, my. Rob Ford has been removed from his office as mayor. Toronto politics just got rather interesting. http://t.co/Ltpmkac6
Rob Ford needs new business cards asap!
Terrifying thought: Governor of the Bank of Canada job is open. Rob Ford is looking for a job. ARRGGHHH! #Cdnpoli
The Globe and Mail
BREAKING: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford found guilty of violating conflict of interest act, removed from office http://t.co/o0BBzIgp #topoli
#topoli Imagine if #toronto invested as much time and attention to transit financing as we spend distracted by @TOMayorFord latest antics.
Its a sad day for hard working comedians throughout Toronto. It appears Rob Ford's been booted from office (pending appeal) #RobFord #TOpoli
No more coach/mayor Ford! #topoli
How does it work in TO when a mayor finishes early? Is there a bielection or will the deputy step up as acting mayor? #fordcourt #TOpoli
Very exciting day in Toronto- and it has nothing to do with football. Let's fix this and make sure it never happens again. #TOpoli
Hey #Toronto, #RobFord might be out of office now so get yourselves educated about the issues and make informed choices. #topoli #onpoli
Who's going to drive the gravy train in the parade :(. #TOpoli #RobFord
Watching the Rob Ford circus is more fun, but Carney leaving Canada for England is bigger and more important news #topoli
Oh boy - we're gonna see Jabba the Mayor kick it into serious victim mode now! #RobFord #TOpoli
Jam Michael McDonald
Also, Rob Ford is trending worldwide. (Let's hope just this once and never again.) #TOpoli
If Rob Ford and Dalton McGuinty just traded positions, Toronto would have subways all over the place. #topoli #onpoli
I wonder if Rob Ford will appeal the decision or leave quietly with his last shred of dignity. #TOpoli
On the otherhand Doug Holyday will make an excellent Interim Mayor for #toronto #topoli #tocouncil
Let's hope Ford can and does run again soon. Then Toronto can turf his partisan, ignorant ass in the most clearly democratic manner. #TOPoli
Have You Driven a Ford (out of office) Lately? #topoli #fordcourt
|@ TorStarEditor : #robford here is an early look at Wednesday's front page of the Toronto Star. http://t.co/eVToRKDI|
The Toronto Star tweeted a photo fo their front page with an exclusive story on how the Ford brothers could be planning a way to maintain power if Rob were unable to run in a by-election. More details as they come.
More bad news for Rob Ford on Tuesday. The Don Bosco Eagles, the high school football team he coaches fell to the Huron Heights Warriors 28-14 at the Metro Bowl.
Rob Ford was consistent in one thing though. The mayor left today's council meeting to attend the football game. The mayor has been criticized in the past for missing key votes to coach his team.
A tired-looking Rob Ford appeared before dozens of reporters at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon. Ford made a brief statement to the media and took no questions. A full text of his statement:
Good afternoon everyone. I was elected two years ago by the people of Toronto to do a job. We have accomplished a lot in the past two years. But, that job isn't finished yet. I respect the Court's decision that was released yesterday. My decision to appeal is not a criticism of the Court. But, I feel it is important to work through the appeal system so I can continue to do the work I was elected to do. This entire matter began because I love to help kids play football. When this came to Council for the vote in question, I felt it was important to answer the accusations that had been made against me. I was focused on raising money to help underprivileged youth. I never believed there was a conflict of interest because I had nothing to gain. And, the City had nothing to lose. But, I respect the court's decision. Looking back, maybe I could have expressed myself in a different way. To everyone who believes I should have done this differently – I sincerely apologize. The people elected me to bring respect for taxpayers back to City Hall, and I will keep working to do exactly that for as long as I can – or, until the people elect someone else to do the job. Thank you. Unfortunately, that is all I can say at this time.
Ford at times appeared close to tears while he was delivering the statement. His voice appeared to break a few times and he was quickly escorted out of the room by his press secretary.
|@ LindaNguyenTO : Suffice to say, the media interest in @TOMayorFord's news conference at 3:30pm is huge. Here's a pic of cams #TOpoli http://t.co/5e8Yg5jw|
|@ JProskowGlobal : Mayor Rob Ford will read a prepared statement to the media at 3:30PM|
|@ SidRyan_OFL : All due respects to Clay Ruby but court case was dumb politics. Ford is many things but hes not a criminal. Now he's a martyr. #TOpoli|
Mayor Ford's lawyers will be filing his appeal on December 5, the Globe and Mail is reporting.
The appeal to the Divisional Court will be the only one he's allowed and will determine whether he'll be able to stay on as Mayor. Earlier today the city solicitor said that Ford will likely receive a stay in his sentence, which means he would be allowed to stay on as mayor until the court rules on his appeal.
|@ StrashinCBC : City hall security has been aggressive today protecting @TOMayorFord from media throng. Saw a guard physically stop. Star's Dave Rider.#sl|
|@ kellygrant1 : Councillors are running all over the place. So Nunziata forces them back to their seats with a quorum call. #topoli|
|@ BenSpurr : Well there we go. Pressed by reporters, Mammoliti says Ford should step down, at least temporarily, pending his appeal #TOpoli|
Toronto's City Council got a bit more clarity on the Ford case during Tuesday's meeting. City solicitor Anna Kinastowski outlined the legal road ahead for Mayor Ford and Council.
Mayor Ford will have to file an appeal to the Divisional Court and Ford's lawyers will likely ask for a suspension of the sentence — meaning Ford should be able to stay on as Mayor while the appeal is being decided.
The appeal to Divisional Court will be the mayor's sole appeal and it is binding. In the event the mayor does not receive a suspension of his sentence during his appeal, a scenario that Kinastowski said would be unusual and unlikely, the mayor's job would be vacant as of December 10th.
If the city were to hold a by-election to replace the mayor, the city solicitor says that her reading of Judge Hackland's ruling is that the mayor won't be able to run in a by-election and would have to wait until 2014 to run again.
The solicitor also clarified that Ford's legal fees are not being paid for by the City. "The City is not involved," Kinastowski said.
|@ NPHallMonitor : "The mayor is the mayor, it is business as usual," said Anna Kinastowski, city solicitor, noting judge ruling takes effect in 14 days|
With Rob Ford possibly out of a job, speculation swirls around who will replace him. Will it be a city councillor? A former mayoral candidate? What about a warrior-princess?
This Hour Has 22 Minutes' Marg Delahunty makes her pitch why she should run the City of Toronto.
It's going to be a busy and possibly feisty day at Toronto City Council.
CBC looks at the road ahead for Mayor Ford and city council.
But if yesterday is any indication, that two weeks will be filled with intense legal speculation about whether Ford will seek a stay of the Hackland ruling while an appeal is heard, not to mention political intrigue as Ford opponents and supporters jockey to figure out how to replace him.
If he does go, there are currently two options on the table: appoint a caretaker mayor to fill out the remaining two years of the term or call a byelection. And while it is early days yet, some councillors, including some previously loyal Ford supporters, are beginning to make their preferences heard.
As for the mayor, Ford has said he will appeal the decision at a divisional court. But in order to remain as mayor while the appeal is going forward, he would likely also have to apply for a stay of proceedings.
|@ thechrisws : Via @jpags, the Toronto Star's Ford coverage includes a recipe for humble pie: http://t.co/BUWROeBz|
|@ KatieSimpson24 : Mayor Ford speaking with his brother in council chambers ahead of today's meeting. #Toronto http://t.co/YrPtuTwb|
The Toronto Star profiles the 27-year-old who may have helped bring down the mayor. From the article:
“History will write him up as a hero,” left-leaning Councillor Joe Mihevc, who has known Chaleff-Freudenthaler since the latter’s childhood, said on Monday.
“He’s an obstructionist who’s never been happy with Rob Ford getting elected as mayor,” said right-leaning Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.
|@ JProskowGlobal : "You can't put a price on democracy" says Doug ford on cost of by election. "We don't live in Egypt"|
A few things we'll be looking out for today:
1) The Argos Grey Cup parade will wind through the downtown core starting at 11:30. Will Mayor Ford show up?
2) City Council meets today. The city's budget is on the agenda and debate around that can get messy during the best of years. Some councillors have been saying they need a special session to deal with rulings around Rob Ford's court case. We'll see if this happens.
3) The Metro Bowl, the city's championship football game is scheduled for tonight at 8 p.m. Rob Ford's Don Bosco Eagles will be playing for the title. Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, has called for a rally before the game for supporters of the mayor.
Questions are being raised about an all-or-nothing provision in a previously little-known "draconian" law that was thrust into the spotlight Monday after it was used to unseat the mayor of Canada's largest city.
As we have come to expect with all things newsworthy, today's ruling that Rob Ford was to be removed from office was the genesis of a bunch of internet stuff.
At Toronto’s City Hall, surely the most ambiently lunatic building in Canada, a stage was set up to launch the Mayor’s Christmas Toy Drive. Eight small children had been procured to act as “honourary elves,” sitting cross-legged on a carpet at the foot of a Christmas tree, flanked by boxes of mini-trikes and construction cranes. A boxed CFL football sat ominously to one side. The mayor was scheduled to launch the drive at 1 p.m. An enormous crowd of reporters buzzed about. Interest in the mayor’s event had amplified to unusual levels by news that the mayor had just gotten himself fired.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been ordered out of office after being found guilty of breaking conflict of interest rules, but he's not the only Canadian mayor running into trouble:
Think you know Rob Ford? Buzzfeed lists eight of his more memorable moments.
Lawyer Clayton Ruby, a Toronto citizen, Paul Magder and the mayor himself react to today's court ruling.
|@ TorontoStar : #RobFord timeline: Mayor has had two years of ups and downs http://t.co/Gq23KVYl Story by @paulmoloney4. #TOpoli|
A number of HuffPost Canada bloggers have weighed in the Rob Ford case:
Blogger and comedian Josh Bowman lays out 10 things he learned from Rob Ford. From the blog:
People hate nothing more than hypocrisy in politicians. Corrupt politicians who complain about corruption. Lazy politicians who complain about waste. Lying politicians who complain about a lack of accountability. Nobody is perfect, but if you are going to launch an attack, do your best to live by the principles you espouse.
Katie Heindl says that we should say 'thank you' to Mayor Ford for actually making us interested in civic politics. From the blog:
Ford was, in his own fumbling toward ecstasy sort of way, successfully rallying the entire country. CNN, BBC, they all started paying attention to Toronto, playing into our forever-the-hated older sibling stereotype and need for attention. Sure, it was embarrassing to have a Mayor who looked nothing like Kurt Russell but wanted to pull some sort of reverse Escape From New York on us, but wasn't it kind of nice to pretend for a minute we had a real live liege lord?
While writer Abubakar Kasim said that the mayor doesn't deserve to get fired. From his blog:
While I respect the court's ruling, I think there were other major breaches that warranted similar severe consequences, such as Ontario's $1-billion eHealth consulting scandal; the cancellation of two gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to taxpayers; the Ontario Lottery and Gaming scandal; the Samsung deal scandal; the Eco Tax scandal and so on.
Niki Thomas echoes a familiar refrain, that Rob Ford had no one to blame but himself. Read her blog:
As an embarrassed former Ford supporter (a confession which I made a few months back) it didn't take me long to realize I had supported the wrong candidate. From the very moment he was inaugurated, by Don Cherry of all people, we knew we were in for a rough ride. Cherry was downright insulting during the ceremony, attacking "pinko commies" for their support of bike lanes, and bragging about the major changes Ford was expected to bring. The vitriol and anger being spouted during the inauguration were just a sign of things to come.
Premier McGuinty, at a press conference on the Windsor-Detroit Bridge, isn't answering questions on the Rob Ford court case. He says the matter is still before the courts.
He leaves it up to the appropriate ministry to look over the provincial laws regulating behaviour of municipal politicians.