Toronto’s disgraced mayor Rob Ford went down fighting as the city council stripped him of most of his remaining powers, taunting hecklers as “punks,” comparing his punishment to a military invasion and knocking over a councilor as he charged across the chamber.
In the latest chapter of an ugly, embarrassing saga in Canada’s biggest city and economic hub, Ford was reduced to largely a figurehead following the latest sanctions against him for his admissions of smoking crack and binge drinking.
However, Ford remained defiant and again refused to step down.
“You are absolutely telling everybody that voted in the last municipal election that their vote does not count,” he said.
Comparing the council’s decision to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, he added: “Well folks, if you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait.”
Leading up to the vote, debate on the motion descended into farce.
Ford taunted hecklers in the public gallery, deriding them as “punks.”
At one point he accidentally bowled over a female councilor as he charged across the chamber.
The civic leaders of Canada’s largest city had already voted last week to curb Ford’s official duties. On Monday, they went further in order to “restore the confidence of the public in the government of Toronto,” the deputy mayor said.
However, Ford, who has apologized for his hell-raising lifestyle and for obscene public outbursts, refuses to quit, has spoken of taking court action and said the only judgment he should face is that of voters at the ballot box next year.
“This is going to be outright war,” said the mayor, who has faced a swell of outrage over a litany of misdeeds, both admitted and alleged, since police last month revealed they had video footage of him smoking crack.
Ford admitted he had smoked the illicit drug and apologized for his antics, including what he described as his many “drunken stupors.”
New allegations of misconduct, disclosed last week, and his lewd remarks in denying sexual harassment claims deepened the scandal, prompting widespread calls for his resignation.
However, in an interview aired late on Monday with public broadcaster CBC, Ford said he had not touched alcohol in three weeks and would never drink again.
He was to give an interview on US television yesterday morning on ABC.
Debate over the motion to curb the mayor’s powers was marked by rowdy outbursts and argumentative to-and-fro between councilors and Ford’s dwindling band of supporters.
Ford swung in his chair and pantomimed one councilor’s alleged drinking and driving, and stood to confront hecklers in the public gallery.
Having said he thought his brother Doug, who is also a city councilor, “was getting into an altercation,” he ran across the chamber and somehow knocked a gray-haired female councilor to the floor.
She appeared rattled, but uninjured as Ford, a former football linebacker, broke off to help her to her feet.
While council overwhelmingly voted to cut the mayor’s budget and staff, a few expressed concerns, saying it is “illegal and anti-democratic,” “craziness” and de facto removing the mayor from office.
“This is a modern-day overthrow of an elected official. This is wrong,” the mayor’s brother said.
Moments before the start of the emergency council meeting, the motion sanctioning Ford was slightly watered down, for fear it went too far.