Toronto City Hall plays waiting game on Rob Ford verdict

Toronto Mayor Rob FordThe countdown to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s final verdict — in a court battle over whether he should be removed from office for improperly debating and voting on the fate of questionable donations — could end up being more entertaining than the verdict itself.

Friday was to be the main event, you see. The day a three-judge panel releases its decision on whether to uphold a ruling that would toss Ford on his ear. Possibly the last day of Rob Ford’s tenure.

Thursday was to be the day councillors and pundits speculated on how the divisional court would rule, and how that would affect the future of the city.

Instead, Toronto City Hall was introduced in detail to allegations of a terrifying and vast conspiracy that one councillor claimed was bent on destroying Ford and his allies.

Ford frenemy Giorgio Mammoliti told reporters, including Global Toronto’s Jackson Proskow, that a collection of citizen, lawyers and councillors have moved against the mayor’s allies and may have even tapped Mammoliti’s own phone.

It was sideshow and the charges were dismissed by precisely those Mammoliti would expect to dismiss such charges. But it provided some entertainment on a day when the holding of breath was expected to be the most noteworthy sound made.

[ Related: Decision on Rob Ford's political fate to come Friday ]

On Friday, still, there will be action. The ruling is set to be released at 10:30 a.m. and declare either Ford’s job recovered or the mayor’s seat vacant.

It will be the most polarizing moment in Toronto politics since, well, the last time a judge ruled on Ford’s fate. At this point, every person who desires to hold an opinion on the matter has settled into their foxhole.

Either there has been a grave injustice done to our mayor and the divisional court will either right it or compound it, or the court has moved to ensure transparency and justice reign and city hall and Friday’s decision will underline or undo that act.

What remains in question is how city council moves forward.

[ Related: Toronto transit head in cleanup mode after latest public debacle ]

There are three distinct paths they could follow. First, Ford regains his job and council goes about making the next two years tenable. There will be a certain amount of boot-scraping and perhaps some level of conciliation on the mayor’s part.

Second and third, Ford is officially removed from office and council either appoints an interim mayor for the remainder of the term or holds a byelection to find a replacement. In either of these cases, Ford can be chosen as his own replacement. On the other hand, so can anybody else.

The Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee does a solid job outlining the "wild ride" Toronto has in store for itself.

The byelection, promoted today by the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition, would cost about $7 million while an appointment, some argue, would be undemocratic.

Gee writes that councillors could end up supporting one path over the other based on whom they suspect would end up being appointed:

In other words, those who prefer an appointment in principle might ultimately vote for a by-election if it doesn’t look as if the person they favour would be appointed. By the same token, those who prefer a by-election in principle might opt for appointment if the candidate they want isn’t running. Some of those in council’s left faction, for instance, would go for a by-election if NDP MP Olivia Chow confirms that she would run but accept a caretaker if she doesn’t and it looks as if someone on the right might win the vote instead.

Some councillors on the left are suggesting that the best way forward might be to propose an appointment first.

In short, expect a certain amount of stumping and horsetrading to occur should Ford be officially ousted on Friday. Various names remain in contention, from Couns. Gloria Lindsay Luby and Shelley Carroll and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday to former mayor David Crombie and NDP MP Olivia Chow.

Until Friday’s ruling is announced, there are no solid answers. Only chaos waiting to be tamed.

It is a familiar feeling in Toronto politics these days.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)