TORONTO – Tensions are rising at Toronto city council with accusations of threatening behaviour by the mayor, even before debate begins on a motion asking him to take a leave of absence.
Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong is set to introduce a non-binding motion at council today urging Rob Ford to step aside in the wake of his admission to smoking crack and binge drinking.
Before debate on the motion began, Minnan-Wong rose to say he was approaching the speaker when Ford stopped him and blocked his path “in a threatening way.”
Minnan-Wong says Ford ordered him to sit down and said, “Why don’t you move your motion,” so Minnan-Wong asked Ford to apologize.
The mayor’s brother, Coun. Doug Ford, started heckling Minnan-Wong and soon the council chambers, packed with spectators, erupted in shouts and boos so the speaker called a five-minute recess.
The mayor later denied threatening the councillor.
A few minutes earlier, 30 councillors rose to support a petition with similar wording to the motion, asking the mayor to step aside because his “challenges” are causing a distraction to the city.
Neither the petition nor the motion are binding on Ford and he has said he has no intention of stepping aside.
Coun. Jaye Robinson and the councillors — 30 out of a total of 44 — stood as she read the petition saying Toronto’s reputation “has been damaged and continues to suffer.”
She says the councillors believe the majority of Torontonians share their view and city council will excuse any absences Ford needs to “address the situation with finality.”
Ford admitted last week he smoked crack cocaine a year ago while likely in a “drunken stupor” but has refused to resign or take a leave of absence to get help.
But the councillors’ petition says it has become difficult to focus on the business of the city.
“Over the past six months, and especially the past few weeks, we have grown increasingly concerned by the seemingly endless cycle of allegations, denials and belated admissions about your behaviour,” Robinson read.
“The city and the office of the mayor demands nothing less than honesty, accountability and transparency.”
Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti, one of Ford’s most ardent supporters, said before the meeting that Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong’s motion is a waste of time.
“Are we going to spend the whole day here trying to tell him what to do when we know we can’t do that?” Mammoliti said.
“Or should we just be pulling him aside and saying, ‘Look, why don’t you just spend some time, get some treatment you might need,’ and that’s really the effective way to do this.”
However, Mammoliti said most who are concerned about Ford and his “demons” have already tried urging him to step aside and get treatment.
“I think he’s an addict,” Mammoliti said. “The mayor has some kind of a problem, issues that he has to deal with…the mayor has to deal with them, not council, not anyone else.”
The mayor has said he’s making progress dealing with his personal issues while still remaining in office, but when prompted Tuesday didn’t outline just what changes he’s made.
The 90-second cellphone alleged crack video at the heart of the ongoing scandal was brought by police to a Toronto courtroom Tuesday, where it was watched by a judge in his chambers.
Ontario Superior Court Judge Ian Nordheimer is considering an application for access to the video by a man seen posing with the mayor in a widely published photograph.
The police have actually seized two videos, as referred to by Police Chief Bill Blair in a recent news conference, but the Crown has said one is a subset of the other.