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Americas

Toronto mayor vows to fight on despite stripped powers

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-16

Toronto city councillors voted to limit Rob Ford's powers on Friday but failed to subdue the defiant mayor, who refused to stand down from his post despite a string of sordid misdeeds, as his extraordinary saga continued to fuel worldwide interest.

Toronto city council voted to strip scandal-plagued Mayor Rob Ford of some of his powers on Friday but the embattled mayor, who has admitted to smoking crack cocaine while in office, promised to challenge the move in court as his extraordinary tale continues to garner worldwide attention.

With few legal mechanisms available to remove Ford from office, Toronto city councillors across the political spectrum have been searching for ways to curb the power of the populist mayor, who was elected in 2010 on a promise to save taxpayers' money but has since become a laughingstock.

Ford said he understood why councillors were voting to reduce his powers, but said he will nonetheless launch a legal challenge, even though it will waste the city's money in legal fees.

"If I would have had a mayor acting the way I've conducted myself, I would have done the exact same thing," he said of the council's vote.

"Obviously, in my situation I have to support myself, and I think anybody in my position would have done the same."

In comments that have made international headlines, Ford has admitted to buying illegal drugs and drink-driving. But he says he was elected to do a job and that he won't step down, even pledging to run for mayor again in next October's election.

The council voted 39 to three to suspend the mayor's ability to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor and the heads of council committees. Of the three that voted against the measure, one was Ford and one was his brother, Councillor Doug Ford.

The council also voted 41 to two to give the deputy mayor, rather than the mayor, special powers during emergencies such as natural disasters. Only the Ford brothers voted no.

"We have been frankly fortunate that no emergencies have landed on the same dates on which we know the mayor's judgment may have been impaired," said Councillor John Filion, who proposed the changes. "The members of council that I've spoken to do not wish to push our luck on that."

Councillors, some of whom have pointedly turned their backs on Ford while he has spoken in recent meetings, are expected on Monday to consider slashing his office budget.

World fame

The furore over the mayor's drug use emerged in the spring after US media blog Gawker and the Toronto Star newspaper both said they had viewed a cell phone video that appeared to show him smoking crack cocaine.

Ford spent months dodging questions about the video, but admitted earlier this month that he had used the drug "in one of my drunken stupors".

The saga, punctuated by Ford's pained confessions and emotional apologies, has transfixed media from around the world.

Reporters, cameramen and producers from international television stations and newspapers have for 10 days been packed into the narrow second-floor corridors outside Ford's office at City Hall.

International coverage has also come from the US late-night talk show circuit.

"God bless Canada, what a gift the Canadians have given us," said "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno as part of his Thursday night monologue.

"Late Night" host Jimmy Fallon quipped: "It's official, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is the best."

For Canadians, the global spotlight is unfamiliar.

"We're not used to that, having our mayor on the front pages of papers around the world," Andrew Coyne, a political columnist for the National Post daily, told AFP.

"This is world-class levels of dysfunction in a person to begin with, and obviously it's fodder for the late-night comics.

"For the world, it's the combination of extraordinary levels of misbehaviour on the part of the mayor and the seeming inability of City Hall to come to grips with it. It's unusual that somebody with that level of dysfunction would continue on, would refuse to go, and could not be removed. So it becomes almost like a hostage-taking."

Media playing a part

On Tuesday, a cameraman was knocked to the ground by the mayor, who was sprinting to his office.

Over the course of the week, Ford supporters have come to City Hall to heckle the media throng, criticising them for hounding the mayor, and saying that the coverage has only served to fuel their support.

The mayor has profound disdain for the media and reporters' growing scrutiny, once calling them a "bunch of maggots".

But he has not shied away from the spotlight, giving one-on-one interviews to both CNN and NBC television networks this week, in addition to his gaffe-filled scrums and press conferences.

And despite seeing his radio show cancelled last week over his scandalous behaviour, Ford will host a new weekly television programme with his brother Doug starting Monday, Sun News Network announced.

"This isn't the media hounding, this is the media doing their job," said Coyne. "And frankly, some sections of the media I think gave him a free ride for far too long."

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-11-16

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