Toronto council strips power from embattled Mayor Rob Ford

CNN
Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 1:01am

 Toronto's City Council voted Monday to strip embattled Mayor Rob Ford of most of his powers after a tumultuous meeting in which Ford vowed "outright war" in response.

Comparing the vote to "a coup d'etat" and to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Ford -- who admitted earlier this month to smoking crack cocaine in a "drunken stupor" -- told council members, "What goes around, comes around, friends."

"If you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait," he said to groans and laughter in the council chambers. "And you will never see something -- mark my words, my friends, this is going to be outright war in the next election, and I am going to do everything in my power to beat you guys."

A series of votes then went overwhelmingly against the mayor, capping a meeting in which he also knocked down a council member during a break, apparently accidentally. Ford and his brother, City Councilor Doug Ford, sparred with hecklers in the council gallery during the recess, with several hecklers shouting "Shame, shame, shame" at one point.

Councilor Pam McConnell suffered a fat lip when she was knocked down, her colleague, Councilor Paula Fletcher, said. Fletcher demanded an apology from the mayor, who said the collision happened when he "rushed to my brother's defense."

"I apologize to anybody that I accidentally hit when my brother was in an altercation over there," Rob Ford said.

"I'm asking you to apologize to Councilor McConnell," Fletcher replied.

"Absolutely," Ford replied. "It was a complete accident, and I do sincerely apologize to you, Councilor McConnell."

In the wake of his crack admission, Ford is battling other allegations of excessive drinking and abusing staffers that have emerged during a drug probe. No charges have been filed against Ford, but his friend and sometime driver has been charged with extortion.

Ford has admitted to drinking too much and has pledged to restrain his consumption of alcohol. Thursday, he denied a female staffer's allegation that he sought to perform oral sex with graphic language of his own, stunning the reporters who surrounded him and prompting another apologetic news conference.

But he has refused to step down, insisting he would let voters decide on whether to keep him next year. He still appears to have intense support in his home turf in the northwestern precincts of Toronto, where supporters cheered him on over the weekend.

"If you vote in favor of any of these motions, you are absolutely telling everybody that voted in the last municipal election that their vote does not count," Ford told council members. "I didn't think it would get to this point, but it has. I've apologized enough. I've admitted my mistakes. I'm not going to sit here and go on and on and on."

Monday's final vote was 36-5 to slash his office's budget and staff and transfer most of his powers to the city's deputy mayor, Norm Kelly. The council already has called on Ford to take a leave of absence and voted to strip him of his emergency powers last week.

City Councilor Karen Stintz said Ford "doesn't understand the issues he's facing," and Monday's votes reduce him to "a figurehead."

"We are a great city, and the reality is Mayor Ford does not represent the face of the city," Stintz said. "We are taking the steps we're taking to give the deputy mayor the powers and the responsibility and the staff to exercise the functions that the mayor no longer can."

And Councilor Raymond Cho said Ford -- who has touted his expansion of Toronto's subway system among his achievements -- was running both a "gravy train" and a "crazy train."

"He needs help, and I said that many times, but he didn't accept it," Cho said. "This is the only route that I have to choose, and I leave up to the individual councilors their decision and I hope we made the right decision."

In an attempt to head off the vote, Doug Ford introduced a separate measure calling for early elections instead. It was ruled out of order.

"There are 383,000 people who voted for the mayor, and a lot of those people voted for each one for you, too," he said. "They wouldn't want the mayor to take that right off each one of you, and it's the same for the mayor."

The vote comes hours before a new show featuring the Ford brothers debuts on Canada's Sun News Network.

"Everybody's had their say -- the critics, the media, the opposition. I want people to listen to me tonight from 8-9 on Sun News," Rob Ford told the council before the vote.

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