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Chaos as Toronto mayor is stripped of powers

19 November 2013, 07:44

Toronto - Amid cries of "Shame! Shame!" scandal-plagued Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was stripped of the last of his meaningful powers on Monday after a heated city council debate, in which he argued with members of the public, charged hecklers and knocked a councilwoman down.

Ford called the move a "coup d'etat" and vowed an "outright war" in the next election.

"What's happening here today is not a democratic process, it's a dictatorship process," the 44-year-old mayor declared.

The council voted overwhelmingly in favour of slashing Ford's office budget by 60% and allowing his staff to move to the deputy mayor, who now takes on many of the mayor's former powers. Ford now effectively has no legislative power and no longer chairs the executive committee, although he retains his title and ability to represent Toronto at official functions.

The debate became raucous after Ford paced around the council chamber and traded barbs with members of the public. The speaker asked security to clear the gallery and a recess was called, but not before Ford barrelled toward his detractors, mowing into councillor Pam McConnell.

Another councillor asked Ford to apologise. Ford said he was rushing to the defence of his brother, councillor Doug Ford, and accidentally knocked McConnell down.

Figure head

"I picked her up," he said. "I ran around because I thought my brother was getting into an altercation."

Visibly shaken after Ford ran her over, McConnell, a petite woman in her 60s, said she never expected the chaos that broke out.

"This is the seat of democracy. It is not a football field. I just wasn't ready. Fortunately, the mayor's staffs were in front. They stopped me from hitting my head against the wall. I just need to sit down," McConnell said.

The motion to strip Ford of his powers was revised from a tougher version to ward off potential legal challenges by letting Ford keep his title and represent the city at official functions. The city's lawyer said Ford was not reduced to being "mayor in name only".

"Obviously I cannot do the job with eight people in the office with a quarter of the former mayor's budget," Ford said.

The council does not have the authority to remove Ford from office unless he is convicted of a crime. It is pursuing the strongest recourse available after recent revelations of Ford smoking crack cocaine and his repeated outbursts of erratic behaviour.

Seek re-election

"Mayor Ford has had many choices. Would he change his behaviour? Would he step aside and seek help?" said councillor John Filion. "The mayor unfortunately has chosen the path of denial. Now it's time to take away the keys."

"The new allegations pile up faster than the old ones can be dealt with. If many Torontonians were initially fascinated by the drama, they are now fed up with it. They want it to end," Filion said.

Far from being chastened, Ford has vowed to take the council to court and insists he will seek re-election next year.

"It's a coup d'etat, that's all this is," Ford said as he arrived at City Hall on Monday morning.

He earlier claimed on a radio station that councillors were against his agenda to save taxpayers money. "If they want me out, they should just call a snap election," Ford told radio station AM640.

However, the council rejected a motion proposing such an election, and also refused to give Ford another month to get an expert medical opinion on whether he was capable of carrying out his duties.

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a former Ford ally, said it's about his conduct.

"This is about embarrassing the city, his involvement with gangs, and his involvement with crack cocaine. This is about his admission that he gets behind the wheel while drinking," Minnan-Wong said.

'Ford Nation'

"He's the worst spokesperson for the city of Toronto right now."

In interviews with police, former Ford staffers have made further accusations, saying the mayor drank heavily, sometimes drove while intoxicated and pressured a female staffer to engage in oral sex.

On Thursday, Ford spouted an obscenity on live television while denying the sex allegation, saying he was "happily married" and using crude language to assert that he enjoys enough oral sex at home.

Last week, after admitting to excessive drinking and buying illegal drugs, Ford disclosed that he is seeking medical help. But he and his family insist he is not an addict and does not need rehab.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was due in Toronto on Monday to meet with area parliament members from his party. Harper has been a guest at an annual summer barbecue hosted by Ford and his family, but has had little to say in public about the mayor's ongoing troubles.

Ford and his brother are set to debut a current events television show on Monday night called "Ford Nation" for the tabloid Sun News Network.

- AP


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