Mayor Rob Ford’s possible legal action against council could be difficult: expert
Author(s): Stephen J. D'Agostino
November 15, 2013
A municipal law expert says it could be difficult for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to legally challenge city council’s decision to reduce his powers.
John Mascarin told The Canadian Press that council “clearly has the authority to do what it has done.”
“The city’s case is very clear,” he said.
Another municipal affairs lawyer, Stephen D’Agostino, said he doesn’t believe that the mayor will be successful in court.
“He can certainly launch a lawsuit…the question is, can he win?” he told CTV News Channel.
“I don’t think he’s got a case.”
Ford threatened legal action Friday after councillors voted overwhelmingly in favour of stripping the mayor of his ability to appoint and fire committee chairs and the deputy mayor, as well as his authority during emergency situations.
However, Ford’s lawyer, George Rust-D’Eye, told CP that he has not yet been instructed to begin the litigation process.
Rust-D’Eye said councillors can’t act on “speculation or irrelevant allegations” and the motions presented Friday could be seen “as an attempt to punish (Ford) for alleged personal conduct, or as a symbolic statement of council’s intent to be doing something in response to it.”
But Coun. John Filion said he was “extremely careful” with how he worded the motions. He said he’s confident that council’s actions are legal.
Rust-D’Eye told CTV Toronto Friday that another vote by council Monday – which will seek to transfer the mayor’s operating budget, among other powers and duties, to the deputy mayor – is “more serious.”
Rust-D’Eye said he will then discuss the situation with the mayor. Any legal action would likely include an application to quash the bylaw or an application for a judicial review, he said.
Coun. Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, told News Channel that Friday’s vote “trampled” the democratic process.
“(Councillors) didn’t have the moral authority to do this, they didn’t have the legal authority, in our opinion, to do this,” he said.
“This is up to the people of the city to decide. That’s why we live in a democracy.”
Doug Ford said that “front-line blue collar folks” elected the mayor and that their voice “has just been taken away.”
Coun. Gord Perks disagreed, saying the mayor still has all the powers that the electorate gave him. It’s the extra powers given to him by council that have been taken away, he told CTV’s Power Play.
“This is the most we can do and this is the most we should do. We have to respect the electorate,” he said.
“It’s sad, it’s heartbreaking that (Ford) has lost the confidence of council and Torontonians.”
Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said council had no choice but to strip the mayor of some of his powers.
“We’re in a very extraordinary position. Our mayor is out of control,” he told CTV News Channel.
“We did the right thing, listening to the residents of Toronto. If (Ford) wants to sue the city that he works for, that’s fine but he will be the one who’s wasting taxpayers’ dollars because we’ll have to hire an expensive outside lawyer in order to fight his lawsuit.”
Minnan-Wong said that Ford’s repeated apologies following his admissions that he has smoked crack cocaine and driven after having some drinks are “valueless.”
Ford also apologized Thursday for making a vulgar reference to oral sex in a scrum with reporters, on live TV.
“Quite frankly, he’s gone too far. He’s broken the spirit of the mayor’s office,” Minnan-Wong said.
The councillor also said that he believes the province should intervene in the Ford scandal since council’s powers are “quite limited.”
He said that his colleagues may need more convincing that Premier Kathleen Wynne should step in.
“I don’t need more convincing,” he said.
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