Just when we thought the City of Toronto was about to regain its dignity by bidding farewell to the unpleasant distraction that has been the Rob Ford mayoral sideshow, Ford’s lawyers have been granted a stay of the legal judgment that would have removed him from office as mayor by December 11. The stay means Ford will remain in office until his appeal on January 7 of Judge Charles Hackland’s decision that he violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
Ford violated the act when he spoke to and then voted on a matter directly concerning his refusal to repay donations he sought from lobbyists for his private football foundation.
The judge had also said that once out of office, Ford could not run for re-election in the current term. Confusion quickly ensued, or was at least stirred up by his supporters and enablers, leading the judge to “clarify” his ruling. He now says that Ford would be allowed to run in a by-election if one is called to replace him.
All of this seemed to have now energized Ford for the job which he has said he would “fight tooth and nail to keep”. Who knew? We always thought he was much more interested in coaching football.
If Hackland’s decision is upheld on appeal, we could be facing a by-election for mayor in the spring.
Or Ford’s lawyers could keep this case tied up in court for another two years to allow him to complete his current four-year term.
Although the projected cost to Toronto taxpayers for a by-election is about $7 million, but likely higher in the end, many in this city would welcome one. Some have said it would be a referendum on Ford’s performance to date. Even Ford seems to think a by-election is a sure thing given the content of his recent presentation before the Board of Trade, which, for all intents and purposes, seemed like a campaign speech.
A by-election for mayor could draw some interesting figures forward. Already we are hearing references to federal New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Olivia Chow, former Ontario Conservative Party leader John Tory, and Councillors Shelley Carroll, Karen Stintz and Adam Vaughan.
But, what if, after spending all that money for a by-election, Ford is re-elected? Wouldn’t that be something? And it could happen. People might just vote for him to prove that they were right in the first place while others could support him in protest of a law that they feel is too harsh. After all, Ford didn’t personally benefit from the funds collected; it was raised to help mostly poor minority kids to play football.
But a by-election is not the only option. Another, and one which would save taxpayers that $7-million election campaign, would be for City Council to select a new mayor from among its .44 councillors.
Detractors of this last option say that to do so would be to circumvent the democratic will of the people. And the people, rightly or wrongly, did elect Ford, and with a huge mandate.
Unless council chooses to appoint Ford to serve out the next two years if his seat is in fact vacated. They can do that. And it might be the path of least resistance.
In any case, all of this can be moot come January 7 when Ford’s appeal is upheld and he is allowed to keep his job.
Yes, we said when, not if.
Judge Hackland has already backed away from the essence of his initial ruling to say that he now allows Ford to run in a by-election. Remember, it was the understanding that he would not have been allowed to do so until the next election. He could have even been barred for up to seven years.
Now, the court has granted Ford a stay so he can keep his job until the appeal.
All Ford’s whining – and that of his supporters – seem to be paying off.