TORONTO Toronto Mayor rob Ford hqas been ordered out of office.
Justice Charles Hackland’s ruled that Ford must step down after finding against him guilty on conflict of interest.
The possibilities are a legal Rubik’s Cube that has City Hall watchers wondering who, by lunchtime, will be leading Canada’s largest city.
“There’s never been a brouhaha of this magnitude in a major Canadian city,” said John Mascarin, an expert on municipal law at Aird & Berlis LLP, who is watching the Ford case closely but is not directly involved.
The simplest scenario is that Hackland rules Ford did not contravene the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he voted at council to absolve himself of the need to repay $3,150 to lobbyists from whom he had improperly solicited donations for his private football foundation.
Ford would remain mayor and, Mascarin said, the Toronto resident who brought the complaint would have no right of appeal.
Much trickier would be a finding that Ford did breach the act.
Hackland could simply scold the mayor, with no real penalty, if he finds the breach was inadvertent or an error of judgment, or if the sum involved is deemed insignificant.
If those loopholes don’t apply, however, provincial law decrees the judge must order the mayor’s seat vacated. He could also ban Ford from running for re-election for up to seven years.
Judges have removed mayors of smaller municipalities, Mascarin said, but are understood to be loath to oust a democratically elected official.
Based on what he saw at Ford’s hearing, Mascarin believes Ford is guilty and the exceptions do not apply to him.
“Hackland is a very strong-minded judge. He does not shrink from tough decisions,” Mascarin said. “I’m finding it difficult to see how the judge lets him off the hook, but we won’t know until we see the judgment.”
If Hackland orders the mayor removed, it is almost certain his lawyer, Alan Lenczner, will immediately launch an appeal with the Divisional Court and ask it to stay Ford’s eviction from office until after the appeal is concluded.
That could see Ford stay in office for months or a year, or more, albeit with a cloud over his head. The next civic election is in October 2014.
If Ford’s ejection was not quickly put on hold, city council would have to get on with the business of deciding who’s the boss. Initially, it would be Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, who would have all the mayoral powers except membership on community councils.
Council would then have to officially declare the seat vacant at an emergency meeting called with 24 hours’ notice. There is a regularly scheduled council meeting with a full agenda Tuesday and Wednesday and launch of the city’s 2013 budget process on Thursday.
Midway through Ford’s four-year term, councillors would have the discretion to either appoint one of their own as a caretaker mayor, by majority vote, or trigger a citywide mayoral byelection that would cost $7 million.
Holyday, a staunch fiscal conservative, said he would rather spend the money than risk a nonconservative being chosen by council to undo Ford’s agenda of cost-cutting, contracting out and bringing city unions to heel.
Ford’s staff have been privately telling allies that, if their boss is forced out, the plan is have Holyday step in with a firm hand on the tiller, at least until the city elections office can organize a byelection.
Another Ford ally, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East), said, “In the eventuality that council is faced with the decision of selecting a new mayor, I’m of the view that, if there are more than two years left in the mandate, council should go to the people and ask them.”
Glenn De Baeremaeker, a centre-left councillor often at odds with Ford, said the mayor’s opponents are not planning “a palace coup.”
If council appoints a caretaker mayor, Holyday is the logical choice, said De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre).
“If we don’t have a mayor as of Monday afternoon, we’ll have to let the dust settle and see what happens,” he said. “I can see a lot of people, including myself, reluctant to spend $7 million on a byelection because the mayor did something stupid and foolish.”
Judge orders Toronto Mayor Rob Ford out of office | TheSpec.com
That should give everyone something to chew on before lunch.
If the judge could just now declare my mayor to be removed from office, I'd be much obliged.