NEWS

Rob Ford facing city council motion limiting his powers

11/15/2013 05:00 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
The council colleagues of Mayor Rob Ford will consider a motion Friday that could limit his power to control the leadership of key committees within the city government.

The ground continues to shake at Toronto City Hall where councillors have already formally urged Ford to take a leave of absence amid a high-profile drug scandal, though some council members are now calling for the mayor’s outright resignation. For two weeks straight, Ford has made news almost on a daily basis with a rolling series of admissions, apologies and responses to new developments. Newly released court documents on Wednesday revealed that former staff members of Ford told police that the mayor smoked marijuana in front of them, used Oxycontin, hung around with a suspected prostitute, drove after drinking, and had city staff regularly deliver alcohol to him.

None of these allegations have been proven in court.

Coun. John Filion has prepared a motion that asks council to restrict the mayor’s ability to appoint and dismiss the chairs of standing committees, as well as the deputy mayor.

That same motion would freeze the current standing committee and deputy mayor positions, while allowing Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly to appoint replacements if vacancies occur over the next year.

"[The mayor] gets a lot of his power from the appointment of committee chairs, so I would like to take that power away from him," Filion told CBC News Network on Thursday afternoon.

Filion said that allowing the current deputy mayor and committee chairs to stay in their roles will provide stability and allow them to act independently without fear of retribution.

"There are certainly a large number of members of the executive committee who are very nervous about being associated with the mayor in his current state," he said.

Ahead of Friday’s council meeting, Coun. Karen Stintz appeared confident that the motion would be approved, while Coun. Peter Milczyn said that council may need to call upon the province to intervene if the motion fails.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday that should council indicate it is unable to function, she would consult with opposition parties on how to respond to a request for help.

Daily surprises

Since the start of November, Ford has admitted to having smoked crack cocaine while serving as mayor, apologized for that and other "mistakes," some of which were alcohol-related, acknowledged buying illegal drugs in the past two years and even said Thursday that he has potentially got behind the wheel after drinking.

He also admitted to being "extremely, extremely inebriated" on a bizarre video that the Toronto Star purchased and published on its website, which showed Ford swearing and ranting. It entered the public realm just two days after Ford said he had "nothing left to hide."

On Thursday, Ford further shocked reporters by using crude, sexually explicit language to deny some specific allegations that police heard during a lengthy investigation.

The mayor soon apologized for his "graphic remarks," which were roundly criticized by council members, though he went on to tell reporters that the pressure on him has nearly pushed him to a breaking point.

"For the past six months I have been under, tremendous, tremendous stress," Ford said.

"The stress is largely of my own making. I have apologized and I have tried to move forward. This has proven to be almost impossible."

The six months Ford referred to is the time period since reports first emerged about a video allegedly showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine.

In May, both the Toronto Star and the U.S. gossip website Gawker reported that someone had been trying to sell the video.

Ford long denied the video’s existence and also denied using crack cocaine. But the questions dogged him for months, no matter how many times he tried to change the channel or shut down reporters by asking them if there was "anything else" they wanted to know about.

On the last day of October, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair publicly revealed that police had obtained a digital video file that was consistent with what the media had reported. The mayor soon called for the video’s release and within days made the bombshell admission that he had indeed smoked crack cocaine — a fact that is now known world-wide.

Police probed the claims that had been made about the video, as part of an investigation that led to an extortion charge against the mayor’s friend and occasional driver. The public has learned about some parts of that police investigation via documents that a court has released in part. Ford has threatened legal action in response to some of the allegations that police were told about.

Ford in the headlines

But well ahead of the recent drug-related controversy, Ford was a magnet for controversy while serving as mayor.

He survived a conflict-of-interest challenge that nearly ousted him from office and also saw a defamation lawsuit dismissed.

He faced criticism over his commitment to coaching a high-school football team, which he no longer coaches after the school board decided to find a new coach in the wake of comments Ford made to a television station.

Even his personal driving habits have made headlines, though Ford has recently been seen with a driver — something he has said are part of changes he is making in his life.

The 44-year-old mayor came to power three years ago promising to "stop the gravy train," the rallying cry he has often invoked to describe his intent to cut waste and spending at city hall. But since taking on the job of mayor, Ford has often struggled to lead a divided council on key issues.

Ford previously served as a councillor for a ward in Etobicoke, the Toronto suburb where he lives with his wife and two children.

The mayor has said he intends to seek re-election next year, and has predicted the campaign will be "a bloodbath."

So far, the only current member of council to declare their intention to run is Stintz, who said Thursday that her decision to contest the mayor is a sign that she has no confidence in him.

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