Toronto city council voted on Monday to strip mayor Rob Ford of most of his remaining powers in further sanctions against him following admissions of crack smoking and binge drinking.
The move effectively makes the city’s chief magistrate a figurehead, which Ford vowed to fight.
The voting followed a heated debate in which the scandal-plagued mayor knocked over a female councilor.
Council members voted overwhelming to cut the 44-year-old Ford’s office budget by 60 percent and allow mayoral staff to join the deputy mayor.
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Ford now effectively has no legislative power as he would no longer chair the executive committee. He retains his title and ability to represent Toronto at official functions.
The embattled mayor called the effort a “coup d’etat” and vowed an “outright war” in the next election.
Toronto has been abuzz with the Ford melodrama since May, when news outlets reported that he had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine.
Initially he denied the reports, but earlier this month the mayor admitted he smoked crack cocaine when he was in a “drunken stupor”.
The debate on the motion became heated after Ford paced around the council chamber and traded barbs with members of the public. The speaker asked security to clear the chamber and a recess was called.
Members of the public chanted “Shame! Shame!” at the mayor.
Path of denial
Ford charged at the gallery at one point and knocked over Councilor Pam McConnell before picking her back up.
Another councilor asked Ford to apologise. Ford said he was rushing to the defence of his brother, city Councilor Doug Ford.
Visibly shaken after Ford ran her over, McConnell, a petite woman in her 60s, said she never expected the chaos that broke out.
“This is the seat of democracy, it is not a football field. I just wasn’t ready. Fortunately, the mayor’s staff was in front, they stopped me from hitting my head against the wall. I just need to sit down,” McConnell said.
The motion was revised from a tougher version to ward off potential legal challenges. Ford would retain his title and ability to represent Toronto at official functions. The city’s lawyer said the proposal does not render Ford “mayor in name only”.
“Obviously I cannot do the job with eight people in the office with a quarter of the former mayor’s budget,” Ford said.
The council does not have the power to remove Ford from office unless he is convicted of a crime. It is pursuing the strongest recourse available after the recent drug abuse revelations and his repeated outbursts of erratic behaviour.
“Mayor Ford has had many choices … Would he change his behavior? Would he step aside and seek help?” said Councilor John Filion. “The mayor unfortunately has chosen the path of denial. Now it’s time to take away the keys.”
“The new allegations pile up faster than the old ones can be dealt with. If many Torontonians were initially fascinated by the drama, they are now fed up with it. They want it to end,” Filion said.
Ford contends that councilors acted because they opposed his agenda to save taxpayers’ money.
“If they want me out, they should just call a snap election,” Ford told radio station AM640.
In interviews with police, former Ford staffers have made further accusations, saying the mayor drank heavily, sometimes drove while intoxicated and pressured a female staffer to engage in oral sex.
On Thursday, Ford spouted an obscenity on live television while denying the sex allegation, saying he was “happily married” and using crude language to assert that he enjoys enough oral sex at home.
Last week, after admitting to excessive drinking and buying illegal drugs, Ford disclosed that he is seeking medical help. But he and his family insist he is not an addict and does not need rehab.