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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford vows ‘outright war’ after being stripped of powers

Scandal-plagued Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been stripped of the last of his meaningful powers after a heated City Council debate in which he argued with members of the public, charged hecklers and knocked a councilwoman down.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford raises his fist in a mock salute during a chaotic council session. Chris Young / The Canada Press / AP Photo
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford raises his fist in a mock salute during a chaotic council session. Chris Young / The Canada Press / AP Photo

TORONTO // Amid cries of “Shame! Shame!” scandal-plagued Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was stripped of the last of his meaningful powers yesterday 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 next year’s mayoral election.

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

The council lacks the power to remove Mr Ford from office unless he is convicted of a crime. Instead, members sought the strongest recourse available after recent revelations that the mayor smoked crack cocaine and was drunk at public events.

Mr Ford later said in a TV interview Monday night on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that he was “finished” with alcohol, acknowledging that his drinking had resulted in “excessive, stupid, immature behaviour”.

Earlier, the council voted overwhelmingly in favour of slashing the mayor’s office budget by 60 per cent and allowing his staff to move to the deputy mayor, who now takes on many of the mayor’s former powers. Mr 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 break was called, but not before he barrelled toward his detractors, mowing into Councilor Pam McConnell.

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

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

Visibly shaken after he ran her over, Ms 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 staff was 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,” Mr Ford said.

Council members said it was necessary to restrict the mayor’s powers given his erratic behaviour.

“Mayor Ford has had many choices ... Would he change his behaviour? Would he step aside and seek help?” said Councilor 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,” Mr Filion said.

Far from being chastened, Mr 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,” Mr 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, his involvement with crack cocaine. This is about his admission that he gets behind the wheel while drinking,” Minnan-Wong said.

“He’s the worst spokesman for the city of Toronto right now.”

* Associated Press