05/19/2013 11:57 EDT | Updated 07/19/2013 05:12 EDT

If the Stories Are True, Can Rob Ford Be Removed From Office?


The most recent scandal to touch Toronto's mayor, Rob Ford, involves allegations he smoked crack cocaine. Now, the allegations come second hand in the Toronto Star, and while the Star is a very legitimate newspaper it is also famously feuding with Mayor Ford. Some Toronto Star reporters saw a video tape and based on what they saw concluded Mayor Ford was smoking crack. Maybe they misunderstood, were intentionally misled or were just mistaken in what they saw.

It is possible the allegations against Mayor Ford are false or perhaps dated (none of the apparent current references supposedly made by the mayor during the infamous tape could have been made in the past).

That said, the obvious question is, if Mayor Ford is charged with possession of crack cocaine does he then lose his post? The short answer is "no."

Standing alone criminal charges do not affect the right to sit as mayor. In fact, Ontario's municipal laws provide very little way to remove a mayor convicted of a crime while in office.

For example, in 2007, Jim Jones, deputy mayor of Markham, was convicted of assault. As a Markham spokesperson noted Mr. Jones would "certainly be eligible to continue to serve" as a York Region Councillor. Mr. Jones was not a mayor but the ability to remain in office applies the same to mayors.

The only limit on a mayor serving when criminal charges are pending is where the mayor is actually "serving a sentence of imprisonment in a penal or correctional institution." (Municipal Elections Act). And to get an actual sentence of imprisonment is quite difficult -- it is most unlikely that someone like Mr. Ford would be sent to prison for smoking crack cocaine, especially for a first crack offence.

Absent imprisonment, there is really no way to remove a mayor who is charged with an offence. There are no legally-binding mechanisms to impeach, recall, or force resignation on a mayor in Ontario.

Accordingly, whatever is worrying Mr. Ford, an expulsion from office because of the supposed crack scandal before the next election should not be high on his list.

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