Toronto’s City Council has voted overwhelmingly to strip its controversial mayor, Robert Ford, of some of his powers as they try to force a resignation.
Mr Ford has continued to assert that he will not step down, despite strong pressure from local politicians following an endless stream of revelations about his drug and drink habits, including an admission that he has smoked crack cocaine.
The vote follows a series of gaffes on Thursday that left the city shocked. The day started with Mr Ford responding to allegations that he pressured a female employee for oral sex by stating on live TV that he did not want to “eat her p***y”, adding: “I’m happily married, I’ve got more than enough of that to eat at home”.
Following the incident he later apologised for “his graphic remarks” during a press conference and admitted that he had drank alcohol in excess in the past, but said he was getting professional help and would not resign.
The motion, approved in a 39-3 vote, suspends Mr Ford's authority to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor and his executive committee, which runs the budget process. In a separate vote, the council voted to give the deputy mayor authority to handle any civic emergency.
The vast majority of city councilors are frustrated by the mayor’s refusal to step aside, but they lack the authority to force him out of office unless he is convicted of a crime.
An unusually subdued Mr Ford vowed to fight the motion in court while also admitting that he understood why the council was taking the measures.
“If I would have had a mayor conducting themselves the way I have, I would have done exactly the same thing,” Mr Ford said.
On Monday, the City Council will move to strip the mayor of most of his remaining powers. A motion, already signed by 28 of the 44 council members, will take away his budget and appoint the deputy mayor as head of the executive committee.
Mr Ford meanwhile has said he will take legal action against his former chief of staff, Mark Towhey and two other aides over their interviews with police that were detailed in court documents released Wednesday. He did not specify what the aides might have said that was untrue.
He also said he would take action against a waiter who said he believed Mr Ford and a woman were snorting cocaine in a private room at a restaurant. “I have to take legal action against the waiter who said I was doing lines,” he said. “Outright lies, that is not true.”
The 44-year-old conservative was elected in 2010 on a wave of discontent from Toronto's outer suburbs over what voters considered wasteful spending and elitist politics at City Hall. His term has however been dominated by revelations of bad behaviour.