Rob Ford promises 'outright war' as powers further restricted

Toronto city council voted by a wide margin on Monday to slash the budget of embattled Mayor Rob Ford - a dramatic move that followed a raucous day in the council chambers that left the mayor promising that next year’s municipal election will be "outright war."

Ford spoke to Toronto city council late Monday afternoon, just moments before his colleagues began voting on a series of motions that sought to — and did — further reduce his powers as mayor.

In a series of votes that occurred just after 5 p.m. ET, council voted in favour of reallocating the budget of his office, transferring administration of that budget to his deputy, and giving his deputy responsibility over Ford’s staff, among other measures.

Moments before council began voting, Ford warned his colleagues that if they voted to restrict his powers, there would be repercussions in the coming election.

"If you vote in favour of any of these motions, you are absolutely telling everybody that voted in the last municipal election that their vote does not count," he said.

Ford then went on to compare the situation at council to the time when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

"Well folks, if you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait and … mark my words, friends, this is going to be outright war in the next election and I’m going to do everything in my power, everything in my power to beat you guys."

Earlier Monday, the mayor demanded to know whether Coun. John Filion, who tabled the motion that sought to restrict Ford's powers, was aware the council could not "impeach or remove its elected mayor" and if that is what he wanted to see happen.

"Mayor Ford, my preference was that you not place us in this position," Filion said.

"What’s before us is what council can legitimately do."

The mayor’s brother complained that they did not receive adequate notice of the changes to the motion.

"Do you know when we ended up getting this motion? Twenty-six minutes before the meeting," he said.

Soon after the Ford brothers spoke, the council speaker called for a 10-minute recess, during which time the mayor went to the front row of the public gallery to talk to people sitting there and to pose for some pictures.

While some in the gallery appeared to support the mayor, others were yelling at him and his brother, Coun. Doug Ford.

Rob Ford’s driver appeared to be filming some of those interactions with a smartphone and Coun. Shelley Carroll was, in turn, filming the bodyguard and the mayor.

During that same break, the mayor quickly accelerated toward a section of the viewing gallery and ended up bumping into Coun. Pam McConnell and she nearly hit the ground.

When the council meeting resumed, Coun. Paula Fletcher asked the mayor if he knew that McConnell had suffered "a swollen lip" during the collision.

"I ran around because I thought my brother was getting into an altercation," Ford said.

"I apologized and then I picked her up, I do apologize."

Fletcher disagreed with the mayor’s characterization that he picked up McConnell, saying she believed that the mayor's staff helped pick up McConnell.

Fletcher called on the mayor to apologize.

"It was a complete accident, I do sincerely apologize to you, Coun. McConnell," Ford said, after first attempting to apologize to "anybody that I offended when I rushed to my brother’s defence."

Coun. Doug Ford moved a motion that would have council ask the province to introduce legislation to call an early election.

"Folks, this will make it very clear who the people of Toronto support," he said.

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti questioned why it would be necessary to have an election in all municipal wards, rather than one that solely involves the mayor.

"It is the mayor that has brought us to this point," Mammoliti said.

The call for a potential snap election was not greeted enthusiastically at Queen’s Park.

"It's not something we're considering at the moment," Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey told reporters. "We're not considering changing the electoral period that members sit. It's not something we're contemplating."

The motion from Coun. Ford came hours after he repeated his pledge to fight council's actions in court.

"This is a modern-day overthrow of an elected official. This is wrong," he told reporters.

"This is what you see in Third World nations …​ This is a modern-day coup d'état."

Coun. Ford added that the mayor is getting professional help and has not had any alcohol for three weeks.

Council has already taken steps to restrict Ford’s powers in recent days, amid a high-profile scandal that has seen the mayor admit to having smoked crack cocaine, to buying illegal drugs and to other behaviours he has deemed embarrassing to have revealed.

Three days ago, council voted overwhelmingly in favour of stripping the mayor of his ability to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor and key committee members. In a separate vote, they also removed his ability to exercise emergency powers.

On the weekend, Ford appeared prepared to press forward at city hall, no matter what council did on Monday.

"I'm going to continue to fight for the little guy. I'm going to continue to save taxpayers money. And if the councillors want to strip all my powers, that's up to them," Ford told the U.S.-based Fox News.

Ford also taped an interview with CNN, during which he mingled with supporters in a neighbourhood in Etobicoke — the Toronto suburb where he served as a city councillor before being elected mayor, and where he still lives — and repeated his claims he has been unfairly targeted by the media. Things turned testy, however, when Ford was pressed about his initial denial, and eventual admission, of drug use.

"Typical media, you're all the same, cut from the same cloth," he told CNN's Bill Weir.

Coun. Ford, standing nearby, tried to get his brother to calm down.

Mayor Ford apparently cursed during the interview — a seeming echo of last week's gaffe, the use of a profane expression during a media scrum — though his exact words were bleeped out. He immediately apologized for swearing in the presence of children.

On Monday, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak commented on the Ford scandal, echoing Premier Kathleen Wynne's comments that the province should consider acting if the city ceases to function properly.

Hudak said, however, that it must be council, not the province, that takes the lead on any action to remove Ford.

"If the city says it legitimately cannot function, then we do have an obligation at the provincial level within the powers that we have to ensure some clarity and stability."

But Conservative MPP and Ford's former deputy mayor, Doug Holyday, appeared to disagree with his party leader, and said it would be a "slippery slope" for the province to step in. Holyday also said council's moves to limit Ford's power have gone too far.

In other related news, on Monday, a judge dismissed an application to view the video by one of three young men who stand beside Ford in a now-famous photo.

Last week, Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer viewed the video and on Monday ruled against Muhammad Khattak's motion to view it.

Khattak's lawyer, who says his client does not appear in the alleged crack video, had argued that news reports about the scandal have harmed his client's reputation.

Khattak is one of three alleged gang members who appear with Ford in a photo that was distributed by people trying to sell the video. In that photo, Khattak stands beside Ford and two other men outside what police information describes as a crack house.

Khattak was arrested in June during a series of police raids called Project Traveller that targeted suspected gun and drug traffickers. Khattak is charged with drug trafficking and participating in a gang.