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Ask Torontoist: Ousting a Mayor

Ask Torontoist features questions posed by you, and answered by our elite team of specially trained investigative experts (also known as our staff). Send your questions to ask@torontoist.com.
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Reader torontothegreat asks:

Is there such thing as a non-confidence vote on city council?

Torontoist answers:

Short answer: No. And in case you were wondering, there is no way to get rid of a mayor just because some people are dissatisfied with him or his policies.
As for technical ousting mechanisms, non-confidence motions are part of parliamentary systems (like our federal and provincial governments), but aren’t really a thing in our municipal politics. In parliaments, if a motion of non-confidence passes, convention stipulates that parliament be dissolved and an election held. But as some of our lovely, smart, talented, good-looking readers pointed out, municipal politics is a whole other quagmire.
City council is not a parliamentary system, so motions of non-confidence are not an option.
What about recall or impeachment, you ask? Nope. That is also not a thing. Despite the efforts of some city councils there are no legally-binding mechanisms to impeach, recall, or force resignation on a mayor in Ontario. Short of the mayor being charged in criminal court and sent to jail, it’s really tough to get one out of office before his or her term is up. Especially one who won 47% of the vote and has lots of support on council (and scores pretty well in opinion polls).


Though all is not lost! Since the mayor is just one vote on a council of forty-five, if enough councillors got together they could, technically, thwart the mayor by always voting against his proposals or amending them into submission. But the administrative powers held by a mayor, like command structure of City staff, make thwarting rather unlikely. Council could theoretically draft a budget without any involvement from the mayor, but they’d likely have to do it without any help from staff. Kind of like how you could harvest a vineyard by hand, alone.
Plus, according to Neil Thomlinson, politics and public administration department chair at Ryerson, where recall and impeachment procedures do exist, they tend, like all things political, to stray from their admirable intentions. Sullied by a lust for money and power, recall and/or impeachment, they are “often used against elected officials who really do have a large popular mandate, but who have powerful (and rich) enemies who can organise [sic] the recall drive and finance it,” Thomlinson explains in an email. He points to many U.S. jurisdictions, like California, where such initiatives have become a way of life, making it very difficult to carry out the business of governing.
And though he says he’s not exactly a fan of the mayor, Thomlinson urges Torontonians to support the process that put him in office.
“I know this is very unpopular to say in these ‘power to the people’ times… but ‘the people’ need to realise [sic] that they either elected Rob Ford or allowed him to be elected. And they need to take responsibility for that. It ain’t the fault of ‘the system.’”

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/tylerkinch Tyler Kinch

    Municipal powers are devolved from provincial powers. Munipalities are not recognized in the Canadian constitution, and they are technically just an arm of the provincial government.

    If Ford were to ever get so unpopular, the Premier could remove the mayor from his chair and force a by-election, appoint a new mayor, or dissolve the entire council and call a new election…. unlikely… but possible. For example, in Alberta the Calgary School Board was once dissolved by the Education Minister, as he claimed it was dysfunctional.

    Not going to happen now… but if Ford ignores public opinion and tries to push through an unwanted agenda, the premier might get pressure to step in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=28132417 Matt Patterson

    I agree that Rob Ford has a popular mandate, so this comment has nothing to do with him personally. However, doesn't the provincial government potentially have the power to take over municipal governments and oust their leaders under extreme circumstances?

  • Bdg77

    I like Thomlinson's use of the UK “realise”; is it really a spelling error if he chooses the UK (and often Canadian) way of spelling?

  • kstop

    Don't rule out criminal grounds – there are garbage contracts to privatise, vanity subways to build and air rights to negotiate – plenty of opportunities for corruption right there.

  • http://twitter.com/digginthedirt Sarah Mulholland

    Canadian Oxford Dictionary: organize (not organise) and realize (not realise). The article is correct.

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    *blush*

  • http://twitter.com/greg_a_elliott gregory alan elliott

    Toronto Councillors who are “dissatisfied” with Mayor Rob Ford – and who begin to play political games – will be dealt with by Torontonians in the next election… remember Councillors, there will most likely only be 22 councillor positions in the next election, so if you become infamous as someone who delays council on a regular basis for silly reasons… you will not be around in four years. Go ahead, tell and try to tell over 60 per cent of Torontonians that that will never happen. As Clint Eastwood would say if he met an elitist taxpayers' dollar-wasting, game-playing, waste-of-skin on council… “Are you feeling lucky punk? Was that 44 councillors or 22?”

    • Christina Robins

      Bet you want to take back your words now, 6 months ago, sure has changed hasn’t it…still happy you voted for him?

  • http://twitter.com/Japple Jeff Nijsse

    I enjoyed the piece, but is it necessary to take apart Thomlinson's quotes by placing [sic] with organise and realise? These are both British variations, or rather original spellings of the words. As a commonwealth endowed with the Queens English I think we should strive to maintain it here in Canada and at least recognise [sic] that both spellings are acceptable, not incorrect.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    “there will most likely only be 22 councillor positions in the next election”

    22 councillors would have to vote themselves out of a job for such a change to occur, which means it won't.

    It's absolutely mind-blowing that anyone thinks having LESS representation in government is a good thing.

    Council salaries make up less than 0.05% of the city's annual budget, so cutting half of council – about $2.2 million a year – really isn't worth the time wasted thinking about it. And each councillor in a half-sized council would have twice as many constituents to answer to, meaning their staff and office budget would have to double, at a minimum, just to stay on par with that of the 44 member council, so there would be no additional savings in those areas.

  • http://twitter.com/majken Majken

    Oxford are the same people who made Palin's “refudiate” word of the year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Sure, councillors are going to vote themselves out of a job. Next, turkeys will vote for Christmas. Councillors can sing all day long about stopping the gravy train, but when it comes to *their* jobs on the line, some of them will start singing a very different tune. I`m looking at you, Mammoliti.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Sure, councillors are going to vote themselves out of a job. Next, turkeys will vote for Christmas. Councillors can sing all day long about stopping the gravy train, but when it comes to *their* jobs on the line, some of them will start singing a very different tune. I`m looking at you, Mammoliti.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Sure, councillors are going to vote themselves out of a job. Next, turkeys will vote for Christmas. Councillors can sing all day long about stopping the gravy train, but when it comes to *their* jobs on the line, some of them will start singing a very different tune. I`m looking at you, Mammoliti.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Sure, councillors are going to vote themselves out of a job. Next, turkeys will vote for Christmas. Councillors can sing all day long about stopping the gravy train, but when it comes to *their* jobs on the line, some of them will start singing a very different tune. I`m looking at you, Mammoliti.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Sure, councillors are going to vote themselves out of a job. Next, turkeys will vote for Christmas. Councillors can sing all day long about stopping the gravy train, but when it comes to *their* jobs on the line, some of them will start singing a very different tune. I`m looking at you, Mammoliti.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Sure, councillors are going to vote themselves out of a job. Next, turkeys will vote for Christmas. Councillors can sing all day long about stopping the gravy train, but when it comes to *their* jobs on the line, some of them will start singing a very different tune. I`m looking at you, Mammoliti.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=28132417 Matt Patterson

    So you think that left-wing councilors like Adam Vaughan and Pam McConnell will get punished (or “dealt with” as you put it) by their constituents for not falling in line with Mayor Ford? That seems very doubtful to me.

  • pickle_juice_drinker

    We'll see. Depending on how bad Ford messes up – and so far, saving 20 million by firing the TCH board pales in comparison to the 500 million or so he's added to the budget gap – it may well be the “pinkos” that benefit from reducing council size.

  • pickle_juice_drinker

    Ford's really messed up the budget with his fool cut taxes first ask questions later strategy.

    I suppose our best hope is that in a year or so when the City faces a 10% deficit, the province will take control and set to work fixing things, much as they did with one of the school boards a few years ago.

    I'm not sure the cure is any better than the disease in that case though.

  • torontothegreat

    Thanks so much for answering my question in such detail! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Vaughan, McConnell and Wong-Tam won't be going anywhere. All unashamed progressives, all elected in the same election as Ford. If the anger was so great against the 'status quo', why weren't they booted to the kerb?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    What's Torontoist's policy on quoting Brits? Do you adapt the spelling? If so, I might have to do some swift re-editing of my posts …

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Vaughan, McConnell and Wong-Tam won't be going anywhere. All unashamed progressives, all elected in the same election as Ford. If the anger was so great against the 'status quo', why weren't they booted to the kerb?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Vaughan, McConnell and Wong-Tam won't be going anywhere. All unashamed progressives, all elected in the same election as Ford. If the anger was so great against the 'status quo', why weren't they booted to the kerb?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Vaughan, McConnell and Wong-Tam won't be going anywhere. All unashamed progressives, all elected in the same election as Ford. If the anger was so great against the 'status quo', why weren't they booted to the kerb?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Vaughan, McConnell and Wong-Tam won't be going anywhere. All unashamed progressives, all elected in the same election as Ford. If the anger was so great against the 'status quo', why weren't they booted to the kerb?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    Vaughan, McConnell and Wong-Tam won't be going anywhere. All unashamed progressives, all elected in the same election as Ford. If the anger was so great against the 'status quo', why weren't they booted to the kerb?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    What's Torontoist's policy on quoting Brits? Do you adapt the spelling? If so, I might have to do some swift re-editing of my posts …

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    What's Torontoist's policy on quoting Brits? Do you adapt the spelling? If so, I might have to do some swift re-editing of my posts …

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    What's Torontoist's policy on quoting Brits? Do you adapt the spelling? If so, I might have to do some swift re-editing of my posts …

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    What's Torontoist's policy on quoting Brits? Do you adapt the spelling? If so, I might have to do some swift re-editing of my posts …

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=733255383 Edmund O'Connor

    What's Torontoist's policy on quoting Brits? Do you adapt the spelling? If so, I might have to do some swift re-editing of my posts …

  • Eric S. Smith

    The solution is either to let them stand or to respell them. The [sic] business is intrusive — stick it in the title attribute of a span element if you feel compelled simultaneously to retain the less preferred spelling and to show off that you noticed.

    As for “striving to maintain” the “Queen's English,” I for one am not going to start talking about “tyres” and “foetuses” and “thousand millions” and everything else.

    • Christina Robins

      All he was doing with the (sic) is following conventional writing guidelines, are you really that put out by a 3 letter word??

  • pickle_juice_drinker

    We'll see. Depending on how bad Ford messes up – and so far, saving 20 million by firing the TCH board pales in comparison to the 500 million or so he's added to the budget gap – it may well be the “pinkos” that benefit from reducing council size.

  • pickle_juice_drinker

    Ford's really messed up the budget with his fool cut taxes first ask questions later strategy.

    I suppose our best hope is that in a year or so when the City faces a 10% deficit, the province will take control and set to work fixing things, much as they did with one of the school boards a few years ago.

    I'm not sure the cure is any better than the disease in that case though.

  • torontothegreat

    Thanks so much for answering my question in such detail! :)

  • EDMUNDOCONNOR

    Vaughan, McConnell and Wong-Tam won't be going anywhere. All unashamed progressives, all elected in the same election as Ford. If the anger was so great against the 'status quo', why weren't they booted to the kerb?

  • EDMUNDOCONNOR

    What's Torontoist's policy on quoting Brits? Do you adapt the spelling? If so, I might have to do some swift re-editing of my posts …

  • Eric S. Smith

    The solution is either to let them stand or to respell them. The [sic] business is intrusive — stick it in the title attribute of a span element if you feel compelled simultaneously to retain the less preferred spelling and to show off that you noticed.

    As for “striving to maintain” the “Queen's English,” I for one am not going to start talking about “tyres” and “foetuses” and “thousand millions” and everything else.

  • Wow

    I am glad to read your reasoned response to the questions of whether we can get rid of the Mayor. Even though you didn’t say what I wanted you to.

  • David Pylyp

    Does the City of Toronto pay interest on debt that could be used elsewhere? Has the City found efficiencies through technology or job streamlining like every other business in North America? No We invented a Land Transfer Tax that brings 300 + Million in Revenue.

    Where would Toronto be if the real estate values collapse…

    Ford Love him or Hate him was elected with a 47% majority of the popular vote from a field of 15.

    Lets see if he gets re elected.
    We elected Miller Twice, Have placed McGuinty for a THIRD term. Want a helicopter ride?

    We get what we deserve We voted.

    David Pylyp
    Pleading for financial responsibility in Toronto

  • Seann

    why the (sic) for ‘realise’? You can spell it that way?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZDOL4IAEQEI3V7PUET5RQZJ4QU teckno

    Can he just be killed… Like, the gun registry is over ! Just saying.

  • Plow76

    Why did you put [sic] after “organise” and “realise”. These are the correct spellings. Check the Oxford dictionary, not the Yankee Webster “dictionary”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1518032394 Laura Märtini

    Question – what if the elected official ran on a populist platform and did not live up to his mandates? In other words, he got elected on false premises (read: NO SERVICE CUTS, and then cutting services)

  • ModernLife

    This seems to be a rather notable article today.

  • http://twitter.com/userxyyyz Jan N

    I’m rooting for Clayton Ruby to win his appeal to have Frod thrown from office for his financial conflict of interest charges. I may start a crowd funding for this !

    • Mark

      Do not just talk about it do it.

  • phil

    While I apprecaite the information, I have to tell you that I am beside myself with the comments from Thomlinson about “delaing with it” Why should the public not have a mechanism to oust a mayor who is evidently unfit to serve as mayor. Not ot mention the non-chalance with which people are addressing this matter. Mr. Ford is robbing Toronto of anything resembling a proper reputation not only as Canada’s premier city (ecnomics, cultural, business, etc.) but Toronto is now the butt of jokes all over the world. Oh and Mr. Thomlinson, you lose a little credibility when you use phrases such as, “It AIN’T the fault….”

    • Mark

      I agree; I thought it very arrogant to suggest we just deal with it. Look if you want a conservative mayor, by all means I do not want to take away anyone’s right to choose depending on their principles – but please, next time, at least try to pick someone we can proud of.