The conflict-of-interest suit that threatens to remove Toronto Mayor Rob Ford from office began what could be its final act when the appeal process got underway in a Divisional Court on Monday.
Arguments for and against rejecting Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland's ruling that Ford be removed from office are expected to be heard through the day with a ruling expected some time next month, at the latest.
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.
The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale breaks down the arguments made in Lenczner's submission to the court, and the counter-arguments issued by opposing lawyer Clayton Ruby.
In short, Ford's lawyer will have 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.
Ruby, meantime, will oppose those claims by reaffirming and expanding on the arguments he made in November.
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 could go before the Supreme Court of Canada.
[ Related: Ford faces uncertain future ]
Should he win and remain in office, however, more trouble is on the horizon. CBC News reports that an audit into his 2010 campaign finances will be released soon -- the focus of separate conflict of interest accusations.
For now, the focus remains on Monday's appeal and how the three-judge panel will rule.