ABOVE: Council cuts Mayor Rob Ford’s budget, strips him of non-statutory powers. Jackson Proskow reports.
TORONTO – City council has voted to cut Mayor Rob Ford’s budget and strip him of many of his powers as mayor.
The motion was amended minutes before the session began in the early afternoon Monday to allow the mayor to keep duties given to him by provincial legislation while stripping him of all non-statutory duties.
Speaking just before councillors voted, Ford called the motion “nothing more than a coup d’etat.”
“What’s happening here today is not a democratic process, it’s a dictatorship process,” he said. “If you vote in favour of any of these motions, you are absolutely telling everybody that voted in the last municipal election that their vote does not count.”
The mayor claims to receive 3,000 letters, 138,000 emails, 123,000 phone calls and 22,000 personal calls a year and argued that it would impossible for a slashed budget and staff to deal with it all.
City staff noted, however, that his letters, emails and phone calls are non-statutory duties that would be delegated to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.
WATCH: Mayor Rob Ford’s lawyer says a court challenge is a possibility.
In depth: Mayor Rob Ford
During questioning, the mayor asked if council would prefer to remove him indirectly or directly, paraphrasing his lawyer George Rust-D’eye, who claimed council cannot do something indirectly – i.e. impeach the mayor – it can’t do directly.
And he finished his speech by comparing council’s vote to the 1990 Gulf War.
“Well folks, if you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait,” he said. “Mark my words, friends, this is going to be outright war in the next election.”
WATCH: Mayor Rob Ford declares “outright war” on councillors.
The mayor didn’t vote on the motion on the advice of the city integrity commissioner, but he did participate in debate leading up to the vote (customarily, councillors declaring a conflict don’t debate the motion they’re recusing themselves from).
The motion limits his 20 14 office budget to roughly $712,000 – approximately 40 per cent of what it was before.
The motion also limits some of the mayor’s powers, including the ability to designate or set times for key matters in council and elect to speak first or last on any council item. It also revokes his designation as chair of the Striking Committee, which is in charge of appointments to several city bodies; and the Debenture Committee. The deputy mayor replaces Ford as chair of both.
Ford remains a member of the executive committee; he just can’t fire or appoint its members.
The mayor’s brother Doug Ford argued the motion limits the mayor’s ability to effectively do his job.
“Who’s going to take care of the over 500 phone calls, 500 emails, his duties as mayor, to represent the people?” he said. “And represent 44 wards? You’ve got to be kidding me. You don’t know the job of the mayor.”
But debate between councillors was temporarily overshadowed by theatrics from members of the public, the mayor and his brother.
At one point, the mayor mimed drinking and driving after Paul Ainslie interrupted his brother. Ainslie admitted to a three-day licence suspension in May. The mayor has his own history of driving under the influence: He pleaded no-contest to driving under the influence in Florida in 1999, and last week admitted to drinking and driving.
WATCH: Mayor Rob Ford mimes drinking and driving.
Shortly after that, Coun. Ford asked speaker Frances Nunziata to remove “union members” and “special interest groups” from the chambers, alleging they were causing a disruption.
Soon after, the mayor began walking the outer rim of the council floor with his driver, who was filming the public.
The Ford brothers began taunting the largely anti-Ford crowd, asking certain people what union they belonged to. Cries of “shame” could be heard throughout the council.
“You’re a disgrace,” Councillor Doug Ford said to some members of the public.
WATCH: Mayor Rob Ford knocks over councillor during commotion at city hall.
Council’s rebellion comes after weeks of revelations regarding Ford’s past behaviour.
In late October, police documents from an investigation into Rob Ford and his friend Alexander “Sandro” Lisi revealed the mayor met with Lisi dozens of times during work hours and exchanged unidentified packages on multiple occasions, police say.
That same day, Chief Bill Blair acknowledged he had possession of a video “consistent” with what had been reported in the media of a video depicting the mayor smoking what looked like crack cocaine.
Two weeks ago, the mayor admitted to smoking crack cocaine after months of obfuscation and called on the police to release the video he’d previously said did not exist. The police have so far refused to release the video.
A less-redacted version of the Lisi police documents was released last week, containing police interviews with former Ford staffers who said the mayor used his taxpayer-funded staff to buy alcohol for him during office hours.
None of the statements in those documents have been proven in court.