By Allison Martell and Cameron French
TORONTO (Reuters) – Toronto’s City Council voted overwhelmingly at a raucous meeting on Monday to strip embattled Mayor Rob Ford of more of his authority in a move Ford denounced as a coup d’etat while promising political foes election battle next year to rival the Gulf War.
Ford, who has been under fire for his drug use and drinking, as well as the way he has handled the accusations, vowed in an interview to give up alcohol and lose weight.
Earlier at a tumultuous City Council meeting, members voted to slash Ford’s office budget and transfer some of his powers to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, among other limitations, by a vote of 36-5.
“This is a coup d’etat,” Ford told council, denouncing the motion.
Ford intends to seek re-election next year and warned councilors that the campaign would rival the 1991 Gulf War.
“This, folks, reminds of when I was watching with my brother when Saddam (Hussein) attacked Kuwait. And President Bush said, ‘I warn you, I warn you, do not (attack Kuwait).’ Well, folks, if you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait.”
On Friday, the council had suspended Ford’s authority to dismiss the deputy mayor and the heads of council committees and removed his powers to act during emergencies.
Ford has admitted to smoking crack cocaine, buying illegal drugs and driving after drinking alcohol but has ignored calls to resign.
In an interview with CBC on Monday after the City Council action, Ford said he had not had a drop of alcohol in three weeks and vowed to stop drinking completely.
“Finished,” he said when asked by host Peter Mansbridge about his drinking. “I’ve had a ‘come to Jesus moment’ if you want to call it that.”
Ford also said he planned to lose 30 pounds within five months.
Monday’s City Council meeting turned into a spectacle as Ford stalked around the meeting room, getting into an angry verbal exchange with gallery spectators, some of whom shouted “Shame! Shame!” at him. At one point, while running across the room, he collided with Councilor Pam McConnell, almost knocking her over. He later apologized.
Ford also mimed drinking and driving – apparently a jab at a councilor whose license was briefly suspended after a roadside breathalyzer test. A video clip spread quickly on social media.
APPEAL TO DEPUTY MAYOR
The council had been looking for ways to neutralize Ford since he will not quit and the council cannot remove him or strip him of roles laid out in provincial law, such as representing the city at events.
“What we’re doing is saying to our deputy mayor, please represent our city until 2014, because we trust you more than we trust the mayor,” Councilor Karen Stintz told reporters before the vote. Stintz, once a Ford ally, now plans to run against him in the October 2014 election.
Ford’s lawyer, George Rust-D’Eye, told Reuters ahead of Monday’s vote that if the mayor cannot carry out roles mandated by provincial law because of the council’s decisions, a court could intervene. He reiterated his position to reporters after the vote.
Ford, who told Fox News that he hopes to run for prime minister one day, recently admitted he has driven after consuming alcohol. And in 1999 he was arrested for impaired driving while on vacation in Florida and pleaded no contest.
The mayor’s brother, Doug Ford, – who is also a city councilor, meanwhile, brought a motion that was later ruled out of order that would have called a snap mayoral election, something the mayor also has sought.
The revelations about Ford, which started in May when two media outlets said they had seen video of him smoking from what appeared to be a crack pipe, have thrust Toronto into the international spotlight.
A new television show featuring the mayor and his brother debuted on Monday evening on Canada’s right-wing Sun News Network.
During the one-hour show, the mayor and his brother took recorded questions from viewers and defended his recent performance as mayor, but revealed nothing new about the scandal.
(Reporting by Allison Martell, additional reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Janet Guttsman, Jeffrey Benkoe, Peter Galloway, Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman)
- Politics & Government
- Rob Ford
- City Council