Rob Ford will learn whether or not he keeps his job as Mayor of Toronto at 9:30 a.m. this morning — and an hour later, the rest of Toronto will be in on the story, as the decision by three Divisional Court judges on Ford’s appeal of his Conflict of Interest conviction is released publicly.
Much hangs on that decision.
If the court decides Justice Charles Hackland made an error in law in convicting Ford of voting on a matter in which he had a financial interest, then Mayor Rob Ford will at least for the time being remain in office.
If the panel upholds the decision, Mayor Rob Ford is out of a job, and for the first time since amalgamation, the City of Toronto will be without a mayor.
Should that happen, then Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday will become the city’s interim mayor until Toronto Council decides how to fill the position. Council will have two options: It can appoint a caretaker mayor, or it can opt to call a byelection.
In either case, Rob Ford will likely be a contender for the job.
York West Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti said if the office is declared vacant, he would be the first to nominate Ford for an appointment.
“We have an agenda in this city, that agenda needs to continue,” said Mammoliti, who until last fall was a close ally of Ford.
“This mayor was elected with this agenda. He has said he was sorry to those who have been involved in this particular charitable case, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be reappointed.”
Mammoliti and other supporters of Ford argue the offence of which he was convicted — speaking and voting on a recommendation that he be made to repay $3,150 in donations made to his football charity by lobbyists — is an insignificant conflict.
“I think he had a mandate and I think he should be given every opportunity to fulfill it,” said Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor Norm Kelly. “And the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.”
Other councillors aren’t so sure.
Don Valley West Councillor John Parker, who has generally supported Ford’s policies, wouldn’t say whether he’d reappoint Ford.
But he said he was generally supportive of holding a byelection, provided there was enough time left in the current term to make it worthwhile.
“To my mind the cost of the exercise is not irrelevant,” said Parker. “But the more compelling question in my mind is at what time along the way does it make sense to have a byelection, at what time does it cease to make sense? We’re speculating on a lot of things here, but if the timelines are like what I’ve been hearing I would be hard to convince that it would make a lot of sense to have a byelection.”
Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher, a councillor who has generally opposed the mayor, said council really needs to decide between a byelection or simply reappointing Mayor Ford.
“We either have a byelection, which is the cleanest, fairest way to go, or we reappoint the person who had all the votes last time,” said Fletcher. “I don’t support a caretaker. They don’t have the electoral support to be leader.”
Fletcher said the question has been a vexing one for council, because questions of what’s best for the city are intertwined with questions of personal and political ambition.
“It’s a prickly subject,” she said. “There’s a lot of people who have interest. The deputy mayor, who’s the mayor’s appointment, wants to be the mayor. (Etobicoke Centre Councillor) Gloria Lindsay Luby wants to be the mayor. Shelley Carroll, Adam Vaughan... everybody wants to be the mayor. How do you have that conversation?”
For his part, Mayor Ford made a brief appearance with members of the press yesterday afternoon, Thursday, Jan. 24. He told reporters he couldn’t say much, but had great faith in the judicial system.
If the Divisional Court does grant him a reprieve, Ford’s legal problems are not necessarily over. Next week, a compliance audit of his 2010 election expenses is expected to be released. If the audit finds he has violated municipal election law, a judge could order Ford removed from office all over again.