TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto’s City Council voted overwhelmingly on Monday to limit further the powers of embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who denounced the move as a coup d’etat and warned political foes of an election battle next year to rival the Gulf War.
Ford has been under fire after admitting to smoking crack cocaine, buying illegal drugs and driving after drinking alcohol.
At a tumultuous City Council meeting, members voted to slash his office budget and transfer some of his powers to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly among other limitations by a vote of 36 to 5.
“This is a coup d’etat,” Ford said, denouncing the motion.
He warned councilors that next year’s municipal election, which Ford vows to run in, would rival the 1991 Gulf War.
“This, folks, reminds of when I was watching with my brother when Saddam (Hussein) attacked Kuwait. And President Bush said, ‘I warn you, I warn you, do not (attack Kuwait).’ Well, folks, if you think American-style politics is nasty, you guys have just attacked Kuwait.”
On Friday, the council suspended Ford’s authority to dismiss the deputy mayor and the heads of council committees and removed his powers to act during emergencies.
Ford stalked around the meeting room on Monday, getting into an angry verbal exchange with gallery spectators, some of whom shouted “Shame! Shame!” at him. At one point he ran across the room and collided with Councillor Pam McConnell, almost knocking her over. He later apologized.
At one stage, the mayor mimed drinking and driving - apparently a jab at a councilor whose license was briefly suspended after a roadside breathalyzer test. A video clip spread quickly on social media. bit.ly/1aBKO0X
The council cannot remove Ford from office nor strip him of roles laid out in provincial law, such as representing the city at events, but it has been looking for ways to limit him.
“What we’re doing is saying to our deputy mayor, please represent our city until 2014, because we trust you more than we trust the mayor,” Councillor Karen Stintz told reporters before the vote. Stintz, once a Ford ally, now plans to run against him in the October 2014 election.
Ford’s lawyer, George Rust-D’Eye, told Reuters ahead of Monday’s vote that if the mayor cannot carry out roles mandated by provincial law because of the council’s decisions, a court could intervene. He reiterated his position to reporters after the vote.
Ford, who told Fox News that he hopes to run for prime minister one day, recently admitted he has driven after consuming alcohol. And in 1999 he was arrested for impaired driving while on vacation in Florida and pleaded no contest.
The mayor’s brother - Doug Ford - who is also a city councilor, meanwhile, brought a motion that was later ruled out of order that would have called a snap mayoral election, something the mayor also has sought.
The revelations about Ford, which started in May when two media outlets said they had seen video of him smoking from what appeared to be a crack pipe, have thrust Toronto into the international spotlight.
A new television show featuring the mayor and his brother is set to debut on Monday evening on Canada’s right-wing Sun News Network. The network is touting new confessions from “the most wanted man in news.”
CNN will air a taped interview with the mayor at the same time, 8 p.m. Monday (0100 GMT). CNN said on its website that the network also spoke with Doug Ford, who addressed allegations he trafficked drugs in the 1980s.
Doug Ford denied a report published in May by the Globe and Mail newspaper that he sold hashish for several years in the 1980s. But he said he did offer small quantities of marijuana to friends.
“Thirty-one years ago, I smoked marijuana. I didn’t deal marijuana. If you want to go calling, you know, going to your buddy and saying, ‘Here is a joint for 10 bucks.’ If that’s what you want to call (dealing), so be it,” he said, according to
Reporting by Allison Martell, additional reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Janet Guttsman, Jeffrey Benkoe, Peter Galloway, Bill Trott and Cynthia Osterman