Pressure ramps up for Toronto mayor to step aside
TORONTO (AP) — City councilors called on Toronto’s deputy mayor Wednesday to “orchestrate a dignified exit from city hall” for Mayor Rob Ford, who acknowledged smoking crack in a “drunken stupor.”
One of the mayor’s policy advisers, meanwhile, resigned. That continues an exodus from Ford’s office that started in May when news reports emerged of a video showing Ford smoking what appears to be crack. Police announced last week they had a copy of the video, which has not been released publicly.
After months of evading the question, Ford admitted to smoking crack Tuesday, but he refused to step aside despite immense pressure.
City Councilor James Pasternak said the controversy consuming Canada’s largest city cannot go on day after day. He’s asking Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly to approach Ford again.
“He has stubbornly refused to listen to everyone across the city to step down,” Councilor Janet Davis. “The mayor has got to come to the conclusion himself that he has to step down.”
There is no clear legal path for Ford’s critics to force him out. Municipal law makes no provision for the mayor’s forced removal from office unless he is convicted and jailed for a criminal offense. Police have not charged Ford.
Nelson Wiseman, a professor at the University of Toronto, said the province of Ontario could conceivably step in and put Toronto under trusteeship because municipalities are under provincial jurisdiction. He said the chances of that happening are “slim to done,” though it might be possible if Ford is charged with a crime and almost all the city councilors plead for Ford to step aside in a motion.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has said she’s concerned that Ford’s personal issues were making it difficult for the city to carry on normally. But she said it was up to police, the courts or the mayor to take action.
City Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a member of Ford’s executive committee, is putting forward a motion that asks Ford to take a leave of absence. That could be voted on next Wednesday. Another councilor is also putting forward a motion that could strip some of his powers.
“The right thing to do is for council to take a clear position,” Minnan-Wong said. “I remain concerned that there’s more information that’s going to come out. I’m troubled by that and that it will hurt this city even further.”
Police said they obtained the video in the course of a drug investigation into a friend of Ford’s. The mayor has called on police to release the tape, but police said they are prohibited from doing so because it is evidence before the courts. Police said the video will come out when Ford’s associate and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, goes to trial on drug and extortion charges. Lisi is accused of threatening two alleged gang members who had been trying to sell the video to the media.
A judge is expected to make a decision early next week on whether to allow the release remaining portions of a document that revealed Ford’s ties and covert meetings with Lisi, an alleged drug dealer.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has also said police have a second tape, but he has declined to discuss what’s on it.
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