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City Solicitor: Rob Ford Could Not Run in a By-Election

Ford, however, can pursue a clarification on that matter with the courts.

The City of Toronto’s top lawyer, Anna Kinastowski, has just addressed city council, answering some immediate questions about yesterday’s decision that Rob Ford has been removed from office. She spoke briefly and urged patience, explaining that council has no immediate decisions to make. For the purposes of the council meeting that got underway this morning, she said: “The mayor is the mayor. It is business as usual.”

Most notably in her remarks, however, was her statement that in her legal opinion Rob Ford will not be able to run in a by-election, should there be one down the line.

There has been some confusion about Judge Hackland’s ruling on this point: whether he intended only to remove Ford from office but not impose any further penalties, or he intended to have Ford sit things out until the next scheduled election in 2014.

In his decision, Hackland wrote that “in view of the significant mitigating circumstance surrounding the respondent’s actions… I decline to impose any further disqualification from holding office beyond this term.” The answer hinges on what Hackland meant by “this term.” The Municipal Elections Act stipulates that “The term of all offices to which this Act applies is four years, beginning on December 1 in the year of a regular election.” That is, Rob Ford would be unable to run in a by-election, but he could run for the scheduled regular election 2014. But because Hackland didn’t spell this out precisely in his decision, and because the language of the sentence makes it seem Hackland was trying to impose a minimal penalty, it is unclear just what his intention was. (At least, Ford’s lawyer maintains that he would be able to run.)

Should Ford not get a stay of yesterday’s decision, or should his appeal be denied, council will need to decide whether to fill the mayor’s seat by appointment or via a by-election. Should they call a by-election, and if Ford does not agree with the City solicitor’s opinion today, he would, Kinastowski added, be able to “take action to get a judicial interpretation” that clarifies Hackland’s decision.

All of this is moot if Rob Ford gets a stay of yesterday’s decision: that would enable him to stay in office pending the outcome of his appeal. Kinastowski said that she “would find [it] unusual” for the courts to turn down that application for a stay.

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