NEWS

Rob Ford's power reduced, councillor says 'Now we move on'

11/19/2013 02:07 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
A new era has begun at Toronto City Hall with council giving increased responsibilities to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, while the city waits to see how a politically weakened Mayor Rob Ford will handle the remaining months of his mandate.

Kelly, a veteran councillor who became the deputy mayor just a few months ago, spoke briefly with reporters on Tuesday afternoon about the steps the city is taking to move ahead with the changes enacted by council.

"The balance of power always resides with council," the deputy mayor said in response to a question about the shifting ground at city hall.

So far, Kelly said he had met with city officials on Tuesday morning and had further meetings scheduled for the afternoon with members of the mayor’s staff, some of whom could soon be working under him.

Since Friday, Ford has seen council restrict his powers in a number of ways, including slashing his office budget and staff.

Ford has also lost the ability to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor, as well as the heads of key committees. He can no longer designate key items, or choose to speak first or last on agenda items at council. The mayor has also been stripped of emergency powers, which now go to Kelly.

Coun. Jaye Robinson said that by shifting powers to the deputy mayor, council has stabilized its city government and paved a way forward for the city.

"Now we move on, Toronto is open for business," she told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Tuesday.

Ford continues to defy calls to step aside in the wake of a scandal that has seen him admit to smoking crack cocaine, buying illegal drugs, drinking to excess and finding himself under surveillance by police. The mayor also made a crude sexual reference on live television and said that a video the Toronto Star purchased of him ranting and swearing showed him "extremely, extremely inebriated."

All of these admissions occurred since the start of November, drawing wide attention from media in Toronto and around the world. Ford has been repeatedly skewered by U.S. late-night comedians, some of whom have featured multiple segments on the mayor of Canada's most populous city. There was even a Saturday Night Live sketch that centred on the mayor and his many apologies and admissions.

Ford says problems strictly personal

The way Ford sees it, his problems are personal and his council colleagues are politically motivated to put him on the sidelines.

"They just stripped me of everything I have because of all personal problems," Ford told the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge yesterday, shortly after council voted to further restrict his powers.

The next election is nearly a year away, though one councillor said Tuesday that the football-loving Ford is already focused on the goalpost down the field.

Speaking to reporters at city hall on Tuesday, Coun. Joe Mihevc said that the mayor is "full-time campaigning now, rather than governing," though in his view Ford has been "doing that for the past year."

Ford intends to run again and promises that the coming campaign will be an "outright war," in which he will attempt to take down his council opponents.  

"I'm going to do everything in my power to beat you guys," he said in council chambers yesterday, during a wild meeting that saw Ford physically collide with a fellow councillor at one point.

But a large majority of Toronto councillors have voted several times in the span of just a few days to increasingly limit Ford’s powers.

Ford spent a decade on city council before being elected as mayor three years ago.

The father of two came to power vowing to "stop the gravy train" at city hall, projecting an image as an anti-tax crusader who wanted to cut waste and spending.

His tenure as mayor has been marked by controversy, both in his work at city hall and in his private life. Ford has survived a conflict-of-interest challenge that threatened to toss him from office, as well as a defamation lawsuit that was dismissed in court.

His personal driving habits, his commitment to coaching football and his up-and-down relationship with the media have all made headlines at one time or another.

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

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