It’s time to get back to work now that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has won his appeal of the decision to remove him from office, say councillors just minutes after the verdict was made public.
“I did think the decision would be upheld,” said St. Paul’s Councillor Joe Mihevc. “Justice (Charles) Hackland’s decisions are usually solid. This is a bit of a surprise for those of us watching it on the inside – however it is what it is and our task is to react very quickly and get on with the business of council.”
Councillors were waiting on tenterhooks with the rest of Toronto for the decision by the three-judge Divisional Court panel. Many expected the panel would uphold the decision by Justice Hackland, which found Ford violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he spoke and voted on a recommendation by the city’s integrity commissioner that he be made to repay $3,150 in donations made by lobbyists to his football charity.
But Ford’s lawyer Alan Lencnzer argued in the appeal that council was acting outside its authority in demanding that Ford return money, that Ford had made an error in judgement and that the money was insignificant.
The panel agreed on that count, finding Ford would have had a pecuniary interest if council in fact had authority to apply the penalty, and he did not make an error in judgement.
However, because council had no authority to impose that penalty, there was no conflict.
York Centre Councillor James Pasternak was among those councillors who believed the “poorly written” Municipal Conflict of Interest Act should not have been used to remove Ford from office in this instance.
“Poorly written provincial legislation should not be a default in removing the mayor,” said Pasternak. “I believe that there was room at an appeal and that turned out to be the case.”
Pasternak said he suspected the ordeal could lead to a “new” Rob Ford – who is more willing to make compromises on the floor of council.
“I think we’ve seen the change already – we’ve seen the change in the budget process, we see a mayor who is listening and not a prisoner of hubris,” he said. “I think you’re going to see creative policy, fantastic city building and he’s going to listen to his colleagues on council.”