Rob Ford’s chaotic and seemingly desperate attempt to remain in office appeared one step closer to its inevitable conclusion last night after he was stripped of most of his remaining powers.
Toronto city council voted 36-5 to curb the embattled Mayor’s grip on power and reduce his budget by more than half for the remainder of his term. Ford called the effort a "coup d'etat" and challenged the council to call snap elections.
"What's happening here today is not a democratic process, this is a dictatorship," he told city councillors in a heated, and often surreal meeting, that stretched for five hours and saw Mr Ford compare the action to the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. "You are absolutely telling everybody that voted in the last municipal election that their vote does not count."
Mr Ford, who has been under pressure in an increasingly bizarre series of appearances since a video of him smoking crack cocaine surfaced in May this year, refused to apologise. "I've admitted my mistakes," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and go on and on and on”.
At one point debate Ford paced around the council chamber and traded exchanges with members of the public. In scenes likened more to a wrestling match, members of the public chanted "Shame! Shame!" at the mayor. Ford responded by, at one point, running through the gallery and almost knocking over a woman councillor.
Under the motion, already endorsed by a majority of council members, Ford would have his office budget cut by 60 per cent and his mayoral staff would be allowed to join the deputy mayor. Ford would effectively have no legislative power as he would no longer chair the executive committee.
The motion was revised from a tougher version to ward off potential legal challenges. Ford would retain his title and ability to represent Toronto at official functions. The city's lawyer said the proposal does not render Ford "mayor in name only."
The council does not have the power to remove Ford from office, barring a criminal conviction. It is pursuing the strongest recourse available after recent revelations that Ford smoked crack cocaine and his repeated outbursts of erratic behaviour.
"Mayor Ford has had many choices ... would he change his behaviour? Would he step aside and seek help? ...The mayor unfortunately has chosen the path of denial," Councillors John Filion said.
"Now it's time to take away the keys. ... The new allegations pile up faster than the old ones can be dealt with. If many Torontonians were initially fascinated by the drama, they are now fed up with it. They want it to end."
Far from being chastened, however, Ford has vowed to take the council to court and insists he will seek re-election next year.