Mayor Rob Ford’s decision to speak on his own behalf over an integrity commissioner report in 2011 will cost him his job, Justice Charles Hackland has ruled.
The 24-page decision was released by Justice Hackland Monday morning, Nov. 26, at 10, two and a half months after Mayor Ford came before him accused of violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act during that speech, in which he pleaded with council not to force him to return $3,150 to lobbyists who’d donated to his football charity.
Hackland’s decision demands that Ford vacate the mayoralty in 14 days, giving the city the opportunity to deal with administrative issues surrounding his removal.
He places no restrictions on Ford’s ability to run in future elections — an option available to judges in sentencing.
Hackland rejected defence’s arguments that Ford had made an error in judgement in speaking in his own behalf at council.
“In the view of the respondent’s leadership role in ensuring integrity in municipal government, it is difficult to accept an error in judgement defence based essentially on a stubborn sense of entitlement (concerning his football foundation) and a dismissive and confrontational attitude to the Integrity Commissioner and the Code of Conduct,” wrote Hackland.
“In my opinion, the respondent’s actions were characterized by an ignorance of the law and a lack of diligence in securing professional advice, amounting to willful blindness.”
Ford had risen to speak about a report from the integrity commissioner asking council to enforce an earlier requirement – that he repay money he’d raised from lobbyists, using his city councillor’s stationary, for the Rob Ford Football Foundation.
Ford told council he ought not to have to pay the money back out of his own pocket. The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act prohibits speaking and voting on matters in which a politician has a pecuniary (financial) interest).
The decision grants a 14-day stay of sentence — a time that could stretch longer should Mayor Ford and his lawyers decide to appeal the decision, and be granted a further stay by the courts.
In the meantime, the question of what happens with the remainder of the four-year term of office for the mayor remains in Toronto Council’s hands.
Council can decide to either appoint a caretaker mayor or call a by-election — which would cost taxpayers approximately $7 million.
Should they choose the latter, there appear to be no provisions preventing Ford from running in that by-election.
Councillors who spoke with Toronto Community News generally favoured a by-election. Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, the city’s deputy mayor, said he’d choose a byelection if the alternative was having a centre or left-wing mayor appointed as caretaker.
Other councillors on the centre and left also appeared to support a by-election.
“I think there should be a by-election because we are two years in the mandate. A caretaker mayor for two years? No, because that person has to be named by council,” said Toronto Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher.
“And I don’t think the deputy mayor has the support to be named by council.”
Josh Matlow, a centrist politician, agreed.
“A by-election would by my preference given the fact that... the last two years felt like a long time, we’ve still got two full years in this term, it would be appropriate to go back to the people to see who they would like as mayor,” said St. Paul’s Councillor Josh Matlow.
“That being said though if Mayor Ford appeals it might be more appropriate to have a temporary appointment. But if it were to happen in two weeks I would support a by-election.”