The Liberal Ontario government may take action to give the Toronto City Council the tools to deal with an increasingly frightening Mayor Rob Ford.
An admitted liar and purchaser of illegal drugs, Ford has now lost the support of most Councillors, the Toronto Argonauts, the Santa Claus Parade, and, of course, the Toronto Chief of Police, Bill Blair.
It was Blair who set off the current fury with his revelation that the police are in possession of the now infamous video that seems to show Ford smoking crack cocaine.
The Mayor and his very few remaining allies have acted as though Chief Blair somehow has it in for Ford.
Ford and his team certainly treat the relationship with the cops as an adversarial one.
Witness the fact that Ford’s criminal lawyer has advised his client to refuse to cooperate in any way with the police.
The lawyer even counseled Ford to categorically refuse to be questioned by the police.
That is the sort of advice lawyers might give to well-known criminals -- to people whom the lawyers know have lots to hide.
Ford, don’t forget, is a self-styled law-and-order guy -- a big supporter, he claims, of the police.
Plenty of probable cause, but no charges against Ford
But this adversarial relationship may not all be that it seems.
Indeed, some have suggested that Chief Blair’s police have actually been soft on Toronto’s Mayor.
Toronto criminal lawyer Adam Boni told CBC’s News Network that if the police saw a poor black man under surveillance receiving a suspicious package from a known drug dealer they would act immediately.
They would not merely take the suspect’s photo. They would consider they had ample probable cause to search him, on the spot.
When the police witnessed Mayor Ford receiving strange packages from known drug dealer Alessandro Lisi, in the middle of the night, Boni told the CBC the cops had more than enough probable cause to search the Mayor and his package, right there and then.
The fact that they did not do so tells Boni that, far from persecuting Ford, the police may have been giving Ford preferential treatment, because of the office he holds.
Cities are creatures of the provinces in Canada
So now it is up to fellow elected politicians to deal with a serial liar, admitted drug user and a holder of public office who behaves publicly in a bullying and threatening way.
And that’s just the beginning of a long list.
The fact is that cities in Canada are not constitutionally enshrined orders of government. They are creatures of the provinces, and provincial governments have almost total power to do what they will with the cities.
The "old" city of Toronto did not want amalgamation with the suburbs in the 1990s. But then Premier Mike Harris didn’t care a whit. He thought creating one super city of Toronto was a good idea and he pushed ahead with it despite "old" Toronto’s objections.
Now, Ontario’s current Premier, Kathleen Wynne, is edging closer to piercing the painful boil that is the municipal government of that "super city."
But Wynne’s Liberals only have a minority in the legislature.
Andrea Horvath’s NDP would likely support a provincial initiative to facilitate Ford’s removal. There is not much overlap between the daunted "Ford Nation" (whatever is left of it) and NDP support.
Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives are in a different position. It is almost certain the Conservative leader now views the careening-out-of-control Mayor as a big liability.
However, in total defiance of the normal laws of political gravity, Ford still seems to command a loyal following of upwards of 20 per cent of Toronto voters. Those are voters Hudak will need in the next election.
Would Hudak be willing to risk alienating Ford Nation by going along with a provincial move to get rid of the Mayor?
Not a peep from Harper about Rob Ford
Hudak’s Ottawa cousins, the Harper Conservatives, do not, constitutionally, have a dog in the race and have stayed extra-scrupulously out of the municipal and provincial Rob Ford mess.
Not that they have been so scrupulous about all matters of provincial jurisdiction.
The Conservatives -- and the two other major federal parties -- gleefully stuck their noses into Quebec’s provincial business on the question of the Parti Québecois’ so-called "secularism" charter.
The federal Liberals and Conservatives could reason that they did not have much to lose in taking that stand. There is not much overlap between their actual or potential support in Quebec and that of the PQ.
But Tom Mulcair’s NDP has a great many seats in the francophone heart of Quebec, where the Parti Québecois is strong, and where, presumably, a lot of voters think the charter is okay.
And so, for Mulcair, coming out strongly against the Quebec charter was, in a way, a risky act of political courage.
Mulcair has also publicly called upon Rob Ford to resign. In this case, Harper has been careful not to follow suit.
Ford, after all, is the one Canadian mayor whom Harper has invited to the Prime Minister’s Harrington Lake retreat for smallmouth bass fishing trips.
In light of those tête-à-tête occasions, and other similar chummy photo ops -- not to mention Ford family friend Jim Flaherty tearing up when asked about Rob’s troubles -- the Prime Minister seems to want to tread carefully on this provincial/municipal matter.
In the next election, the Conservatives will definitely need Ford Nation’s votes to keep the handful of Toronto seats they now have, among them Ford’s home bailiwick of Etobicoke .
If Tim Hudak is equally nervous about offending Ford’s still fervent supporters and demurs when it comes to the province taking action against the Mayor, will Premier Wynne be willing to proceed nonetheless?
The way things are going at Toronto City Hall we may not have to wait too long to find out.
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