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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.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    “This term” is the full four years, as the rest of council will still complete “this term”.

  • Paul

    I find all this supposed confusion ridiculous. “Term” has a very clear meaning within the context of municipal politics. The judge’s intent seemed pretty obvious.

  • Kristian

    It’s as though almost nobody reporting on the topic ever bothered to look at the Ontario Elections Act and use ctrl+f. It’s pretty unambiguous, and I have no earthly idea what Ford’s lawyers are thinking if he’s being advised he can run immediately.

    • Anonymous

      Well, keep in mind that these are the same lawyers who were advising Ford to advance a bunch of ludicrous defences to the application that the judge easily batted away.

      • Anonymous

        I’m sure they’ve made a very good dollar, and looking forward to lots more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1185938602 Frederick Warner

    Ford never learns.

    • Dinah Might

      Someone should do a new version of that 80s song “War Never Ends” — the one with the minimal techno-beat and those 3 words said over and over — using those lyrics.

  • http://twitter.com/torontomyway Toronto My Way

    Mr. Ford wants to fight the ruling. We shouldn’t be surprised – this entire case was all about his dismissal of law. That’s why he’s out and should stay out. From reading while driving to accusations of driving through streetcar stop signs, his wanton disregard for, at the very least, some semblance of decorum and dignity in leadership, is utterly unfit for a city of Toronto’s scope and profile. Enough is enough, finally.

  • Hello

    Neve the Mr Mayor alone he did not commit a crime the city of Toronto should fire half the councillors in office they don’t them ,the city of chicago is 10 times bigger than Toronto and they don’t have half the councillors we have talking about Ford do some thing about this it will save the Cit of MiLLions of Dollars

    • Anonymous

      Hello!

    • John Duncan

      Well, Chicago is infamous for its history of municipal corruption and graft, so maybe not the best political system to model ourselves after.

      That said, Chicago City Council consists of 50 aldermen and 1 mayor, representing approximately 2.7 million citizens (1 representative per 54k citizens), while Toronto City Council consists of 44 councillors and 1 mayor, representing approximately 2.6 million citizens (1 representative per 59k citizens). Chicago’s aldermen are paid a salary of $114,913, while Toronto’s councillors are paid a salary of $102,608.

      So basically you’re wrong in every way.

    • Anonymous

      Millions of dollars is pocket change compared to the whole budget of the city.

  • Anonymous

    Although this seems like the most straight-forward interpretation, it does seem odd because the judge was trying to communicate the need to minimize the punishment on Ford as the mandatory minimum was already extremely harsh. But then to bar him from running in the by-election seems like giving him an unnecessary extra kick. It’s like the explicit meaning of his ruling is in contrast with the implicit message.

    • Kristian

      The bar from running in the by-election IS the minimal punishment, at least according to the most reasonable interpretation of what the judge meant – “term” is defined in legislation, and he just can’t run until the term is out. So, the judge’s hands are tied there. The judge had the discretion to extend the ban for an extra 7 years but did not, so there’s your leniency. Had Ford read either piece of legislation at any point in time he might have noticed this. It seems as though he STILL has not.

      • Anonymous

        But if that’s the way the law is written, why was everyone waiting with baited breath to hear an interpretation of his decision. It’s clear he didn’t slap him with the extra 7 years, but all the media discussion (including here on Torontoist) seemed to suggest that the judge could have let RF run in the by-election.

        • Kristian

          Honestly? Because legal matters are confusing and a lot of journalists who don’t specialize in reporting on the law miss things. It’s an easy mistake really. ‘Term’ in this case is not something that is REALLY OBVIOUSLY a term of art. It’s easy to see why most reporters would just neglect to check a related piece of legislation to see if it had a strict definition, even if that related bit IS the friggin’ Elections Act. Any lawyer who dealt with elections and municipal law who missed that would need a few stiff drinks to handle his embarrassment. Of course if the judge somehow made a mistake of law and failed to apply the penalty, there would be grounds for the complainant to appeal.

          • Anonymous

            Well that certainly makes sense…but I guess I’m surprised that no one’s published a story that basically says ‘barring RF from running in the by-election is mandated by the law rather than a decision by the judge’.

            Or maybe someone has…I just read what comes across my interwebs.

          • vampchick21

            The thing is, Ford’s lawyers are helping with the confusion. They think he can run in a by-election before 2014. Or at least, that’s what they are saying. So hence further muddying of waters that are actually clear.

          • Anonymous

            This is standard neocon playbook stuff: attempt to sow confusion among the uninformed, when the facts are devastatingly clear. The Fords tried it with transit, they tried it with the port lands, they’re trying it with casinos, they tried it most recently with Rob’s MCOIA defense, and they’re still trying it with this by-election crap. Because sometimes, it might just work, and they’ve really got nothing else.

          • Anonymous

            Ok…so this was up to the discretion of the judge after all, and that’s why we needed clarity from him. And further, his intention wasn’t what everyone assumed it to be. I wish I hadn’t felt compelled to come back to this thread to point that out, but there it is. I’m a small person.

          • Kristian

            I’m completely flabbergasted by this. The judge essentially redacted a phrase from his written judgement because of the fact that people were ‘confused’ about it, which tells me that he has to be aware of the fact that term has a prescribed meaning and that he used the word inappropriately to start with. I have to say that this looks like he just plain screwed up – one way or the other, he made an error of law – and a cross-appeal is coming.

          • Anonymous

            What’s a cross appeal? Sounds angry!

          • Kristian

            Not much to it, it’s just what you call it when both parties to a judgment appeal that judgment. Ford’s appealing, and presumably, based on this weirdness, Ruby and Magder will be appealing too, but appealing different parts of the judgment.

        • Eric S. Smith

          “But if that’s the way the law is written, why was everyone waiting[...]?”

          We were waiting to hear if the judge found he’d violated the law or not, weren’t we?