Jan 23 2013
Toronto will learn the fate of Mayor Rob Ford Friday morning when the Divisional Court rules on whether to toss him from office.
The panel of three judges that deliberated over Mr. Ford’s appeal hearing earlier this month announced Wednesday that their decision will be released at 10:30 a.m. Lawyers for each side will receive a copy an hour earlier, but have agreed not to disclose it in advance.
If the appeal court upholds Justice Charles Hackland’s ruling that Mr. Ford broke the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, he will be forced out. If a majority of the judges disagree with the finding, or deem that one of the saving provisions apply, the mayor can keep his job.
A verdict against Mr. Ford, who did not comment on Wednesday, will trigger a frenzy of activity at city hall, as councillors grapple with how to fill his seat.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday — who believes the mayor will win his appeal — says he would then seek to call a special meeting to declare the mayor’s chair vacant. Once that happens, a 60-day clock will start ticking during which city council can either call a byelection — at a cost of least $7-million — or appoint a replacement, which could be Mr. Ford.
Politicians who usually engage in pitched battles on the floor of council do not seem to be of one mind on this issue, either.
The deputy mayor, who will perform the mayor’s duties in the interim, said his first choice would be to appoint Mr. Ford. But if he does not believe he has the necessary votes on council, then Mr. Holyday would put his own name forward to continue the agenda of the administration.
Other names have also been floated as possible appointments, including Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby and Councillor Peter Milczyn. Councillor Josh Matlow suggested former mayor David Crombie would be the perfect person to finish the term. (When asked if he is interested, Mr. Crombie said “I don’t know.”)
Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker is leaning toward a byelection, but also pointed to Councillor Doug Ford as a suitable appointment.
Various councillors have not ruled out running in a byelection, including Shelley Carroll, Karen Stintz and Adam Vaughan. Federal NDP member Olivia Chow is also thinking about it.
For Councillor Paula Fletcher, the primary issue is fairness, and she doesn’t think it would be fair to appoint someone who has not been elected.
“Even though I’m not on the Rob Ford team, what would be fair is to either have a byelection and the electorate gets to choose. Or re-appoint the person the electorate has chosen already,” said Ms. Fletcher.
The state of turmoil stems from a council meeting in February in which Mayor Ford argued that it didn’t make sense that he should have to pay back $3,150 in donations to his private football foundation, which the city’s integrity commissioner ruled he had obtained improperly through the use of city letterhead. He then voted to overturn an earlier council decision demanding reimbursement.
The vote prompted Toronto resident Paul Magder to seek the mayor’s removal from office on the grounds that he broke conflict of interest rules. Judge Hackland agreed. He said Mayor Ford’s actions amounted to “willful blindness,” even if he deemed the law, which carries a mandatory expulsion from office, a “blunt instrument.”
In his appeal, Mr. Ford’s lawyer, Alan Lenczner, accused Judge Hackland of committing “substantial errors in law” and ignoring “balancing factors” that could have supported an “error in judgment” provision and saved the mayor’s job. He argued that council did not have the right to impose the reimbursement sanction on Mayor Ford and therefore everything that came after that is null and void.
“Do we want to throw out a mayor who was elected by the people because he voted on one occasion for no detriment to the city and no benefit to himself?” Mr. Lenczner asked at the time.
Mr. Magder, represented by lawyer Clayton Ruby, argued that the act must be “interpreted harshly.” In court, Mr. Ruby described Mr. Ford as “stubborn and intransigent” and said he made it clear that the amount of money in question mattered to him.
“No matter what happens with Mayor Ford, the sky will not fall,” said Councillor Matlow. “That being said, I think this sideshow has sucked so much air away from the city’s real priorities.”
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