US & Canada

Toronto mayor 'to lose some powers'

Toronto's city council has voted overwhelmingly to strip embattled mayor Rob Ford of some of his powers.

It is the council's latest attempt to rein in Mr Ford, who has refused to resign amid a drugs and drink row.

In recent days Mr Ford has admitted using crack cocaine, buying illegal drugs, and drink driving - while mayor - and used lewd language on television.

Mr Ford's authority to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor and his executive committee may be affected.

Toronto City Council voted 39 to three to suspend the mayor's ability to appoint and dismiss the deputy mayor, and the chairs of the council's standing committees, including the executive committee which controls the budget.

'Precedent-setting'

Mr Ford, 44, a married father of two, and his older brother Doug Ford registered two of the votes against.

The city council also voted 41 to two to place emergency powers in the hands of the deputy mayor, rather than the mayor, for example in the event of a natural disaster.

On Monday, city councillors will consider a further measure - delegating to the deputy mayor "all powers and duties which are not by statute assigned to the mayor", a move which correspondents say would take away his budget.

It was the latest twist in a saga that has drawn the ranks of the world's media to Toronto city hall.

In recent days many council members have turned their backs on the mayor in meetings as he addressed ongoing political matters.

But the City Council has no authority to remove him unless he is convicted of a crime, so Ford opponents have instead opted for votes designed to chip away at his powers.

"We can't control his behaviour, but certainly we can ensure that city business carries on as usual, perhaps even better," said one city councillor, John Filion.

"We need to take away his power for the good of the city,'' said a former ally, councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

Mr Ford has vowed to fight the "precedent-setting" measure in court, saying "the taxpayer is going to have to pay a fortune for this".

But in a flash of contrition, the conservative mayor added: "If I would have had a mayor conducting themselves the way I have, I would have done exactly the same thing."

'Graphic remarks'

The vote comes one day after Mr Ford made an obscene outburst on live television while denying he had offered oral sex to a female staff member.

Image caption Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has suggested that the provincial government may intervene in the Ford affair

Mr Ford apologised later on Thursday for his "graphic remarks" and said he was getting help from healthcare professionals.

He had been responding to allegations in court papers that he had also driven drunk, used racially abusive language, threatened staff and consorted with a woman suspected of working as a prostitute.

On Thursday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne suggested the provincial government may intervene, if called on to do so by the Toronto city authorities.

"The things we are seeing and hearing about Mayor Rob Ford are truly disturbing," she said during a televised statement.

Mr Ford says he will not stand down, and will run for re-election in October 2014.

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