Toronto Mayor Rob Ford capped off his day-long appearance at a Divisional Court appeal panel with the same message with which he ends just about everything else: He will continue fighting for taxpayers.
That was the message he passed on to the flock of media that gathered at a Toronto courthouse on Monday and watched as Ford’s lawyer argued bitterly against a court decision that stripped Ford of his position for violating the Muncipal Conflict of Interest Act.
Say what you want about the embattled mayor, his sound bites are consistent. Fighting for taxpayers is the message he campaigned on in 2010. It is what he says he has been doing every day since taking office.
You may recall that Ford was removed from office, pending this appeal, for voting and participating in a debate over whether he should be forced to pay back $3,150 in questionable donations he collected for a personal charity using city letterhead.
That ruling sparked questions about how and when a new mayor would be selected, and how Toronto's city council would move forward from the controversy.
All that would be avoided, of course, if Ford's lawyer Alan Lenzcner is successful in his appeal.
That appeal was heard by a three-judge appeal panel on Monday. While Ford sat in court and listened to his fate argued over, he continued to fight for taxpayers.
Arguments for and against rejecting Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland's ruling that Ford be removed from office were heard in full, with judges asking many questions of Lenzcner and his court opponent, Clayton Ruby.
CBC News reports that Lenzcner argued that stripping Ford of his job was a "draconian" punishment for an honest error in judgment — claiming Ford misunderstood the law when he chose to vote against a motion that would have forced him to repay the donations made by lobbyists.
A similar argument had been rejected by Hackland during the trial.
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The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale broke down the four arguments made in Lenczner's submission to the appeal panel, and the counter-arguments issued by Ruby.
In short, Ford's lawyer needs to convince the Divisional Court panel that Hackland erred:
- in ruling that council was allowed to order Ford to repay the money
- in his interpretation of the scope of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act
- in how he determined if the amount of money in question was "significant"
- by not agreeing with Ford's "error of judgement" defence.
Before ending for the day, the panel of judges said it understood the high level of interest in the case and promised a prompt decision.
There is no next step for this lawsuit. If Ford loses his appeal, the city moves on to its next order of business: replacing him or holding a byelection. Although, the Law Times reports that the case might be eligible to go before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Ford has said that if he loses, he will run in a possible byelection. He says one should be held, preferring the city pay the $7 million price tag rather than have council choose a replacement until the next municipal election.
He wants to get back to fighting for tax payers as soon as possible. Whatever the cost.