Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says voters, not court should decide if he gets to keep his job

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

If you live in Toronto, you might want to mark Oct. 27, 2014, on your calendar.

That's when Mayor Rob Ford wants to hear how you feel about him. If, that is, he's still in the mayor's chair.

Ford, who less than two years after his resounding election victory in the 2010 municipal election, could wind up losing his job over a conflict-of-interest allegation before voters get a chance to render their judgment at the polls in 2014.

"If you don't like what I'm doing, there's an election Oct. 27, 2014," Ford told Newstalk 1010 radio, according to the Globe and Mail. "It's two years away, then have your say. I don't think it's right what's going on. But I've got to watch what I say so I can't say too much."

Ford's term so far has been filled with controversy over angry encounters with reporters and a comedian, cussing out a 911 operator, photographed driving while reading documents, cruising past a streetcar with its door open and his approach to big issues such as new subway lines and development along Toronto's waterfront.

[ Related: Rob Ford accused of swearing at 911 dispatchers ]

But he's now ensnared in a mess that originated in his days as a city councillor.

A lawsuit alleges Ford broke Ontario's Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he voted to let himself off the hook for failing to repay more than $3,000 in donations to his football charity from lobbyists for individuals doing business with the city.

The donations were made before he was mayor and in 2010, city council voted that Ford be ordered to repay the money.

He never did, and last February, council voted to rescind that order — a process Ford participated in. Instead of excusing himself from the debate, Ford made a speech and voted on the motion.

The lawsuit was filed by a politically active Toronto resident. If found guilty, Ford would be automatically ousted from the mayor's job and potentially be banned from running again for up to seven years, the Globe reported.

In his radio interview, Ford acknowledged his job will be on the line when he testifies next week and faces questioning from famed criminal lawyer Clayton Ruby.

"He's going to cross-examine me and they want me out of office," Ford said, according to the Toronto Sun. "And if I lose the court case, I guess I lose my job.

"I don't know. It really bothers me. It really bothers me. So just hope for the best."

[ Related: Ford goes on nine-hour fishing trip with Stephen Harper ]

The mayor defended the work of his Rob Ford Football Foundation, which he said helps operate programs in more than a dozen schools in underprivileged neighbourhoods. And he railed against the perceived injustice of potentially losing his job in a court case.

"I don't think it is right what is going on but again I got to watch what I say," he said, according to the Sun.

Ford's lawyer is fighting the case by arguing the provincial conflict-of-interest law doesn't apply to breaches of city council's code of conduct — which carries lesser penalties than dismissal from office — and that the original order to repay the money was outside council's authority, the Globe said.

The defence also contends the amount of the illegal donation is small compared to the penalty Ford faces. And the mayor, who's spent 14 years in municipal government, was guilty only of an honest error in judgment when he made his speech and voted Feb. 7 on the motion that affected him.