Rob Ford vows ‘outright war’ after Toronto council strips his powers
(CNN) — Embattled Mayor Rob Ford vowed “outright war” after Toronto’s City Council voted to strip him of most of his powers Monday in a tumultuous meeting during which a charging Ford knocked down one of its members.
Nearly two weeks after Ford admitted to smoking crack cocaine in a “drunken stupor” — an admission forced by a drug probe that resulted in extortion charges against a friend — the mayor said he was done apologizing. He called Monday’s vote “a coup d’etat” and compared it to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, warning council members, “What goes around, comes around, friends.”
“If you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait,” he said to groans and laughter in the council chambers. “And you will never see something — mark my words, my friends, this is going to be outright war in the next election, and I am going to do everything in my power to beat you guys.”
Undeterred, the council voted 36-5 to slash the budget of the mayor’s office and transfer most of his duties to the deputy mayor. City Councilor Karen Stintz said Ford “doesn’t understand the issues he’s facing,” and Monday’s votes reduce him to “a figurehead.”
“We are a great city, and the reality is Mayor Ford does not represent the face of the city,” Stintz said. “We are taking the steps we’re taking to give the deputy mayor the powers and the responsibility and the staff to exercise the functions that the mayor no longer can.”
The council already has called on Ford to take a leave of absence and voted to strip him of his emergency powers last week. In Monday’s session, Ford and his brother, City Councilor Doug Ford, sparred with hecklers in the council gallery who chanted “Shame, shame, shame,” during a recess.
During that break, Rob Ford stomped over to his brother, knocking down Councilor Pam McConnell in the process — an apparently accidental act for which the mayor had to issue another apology.
McConnell suffered a fat lip, her colleague, Councilor Paula Fletcher, told Ford. Fletcher demanded an apology from the mayor, who said the collision happened when he “rushed to my brother’s defense.”
“I apologize to anybody that I accidentally hit when my brother was in an altercation over there,” Rob Ford said.
“I’m asking you to apologize to Councilor McConnell,” Fletcher replied.
“Absolutely,” Ford replied. “It was a complete accident, and I do sincerely apologize to you, Councilor McConnell.”
Apologies have become a matter of routine for Ford since his November 5 admission that he once used crack. He’s now battling other allegations of excessive drinking and abusing staffers that have emerged during the drug probe, which has not resulted in charges against the mayor so far.
Ford has admitted to drinking too much and has pledged to restrain his consumption of alcohol. But he’s denied other accounts of public intoxication and the physical and verbal abuse of staffers. Thursday, he answered a female aide’s allegation that he sought to perform oral sex with graphic language of his own, stunning the reporters who surrounded him and prompting another apologetic news conference.
And he has refused to step down, insisting he would let voters of Canada’s largest city decide on whether to keep him next year. He still appears to have intense support in his home turf in the blue-collar northwestern precincts of Toronto, where supporters cheered him on over the weekend.
Monday’s vote came hours before the debut of “Ford Nation,” a show he and his brother now host on Canada’s Sun TV news network. On the show, Ford said he hadn’t had a drink in three weeks and was working on losing as much as 40 pounds.
“If council wants to strip all my powers, do whatever they want to do,” he said. “I disagree with it, but you know what? They have their rights. I think it’s wrong. I think it’s illegal. But people are going to have their say on October 27.”
“I’m feeling great, ’cause again, I know what I’m doing is right for the taxpayers,” he added.
In an attempt to head off Monday’s vote, Doug Ford introduced a separate measure calling for early elections instead. It was ruled out of order.
“There are 383,000 people who voted for the mayor, and a lot of those people voted for each one for you, too,” he said. “They wouldn’t want the mayor to take that right off each one of you, and it’s the same for the mayor.”
But Councilor Raymond Cho said Rob Ford — who has touted his expansion of Toronto’s subway system and vowed to derail what he calls the “gravy train” of city government — was running both a “gravy train” and a “crazy train.”
“He needs help, and I said that many times, but he didn’t accept it,” Cho said. “This is the only route that I have to choose, and I leave up to the individual councilors their decision and I hope we made the right decision.”
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who inherits much of Ford’s authority now, said he hadn’t spoken to the mayor Monday evening — “and given the bellicosity of his concluding remarks, I think it is wise to wait for some time.”
“We played football. We both coached football. And hopefully, using football as a metaphor, we can talk about strategies and tactics on a go-forward basis,” Kelly said. “But the key right now I think is to let him settle down, seek advice from others — at least others that he listens to. Because he hasn’t listened to us that well over the past few weeks. And then talk together, privately, and see where it goes from there.”
But Kelly said that if Ford continues “to get in the way of good government,” the city could ask Ontario’s provincial government to remove him completely.
By Matt Smith
CNN’s Nic Robertson, Laura Dolan and Sarah Aarthun contributed to this report.