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Toronto council strips mayor of more powers

| Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, 9:33 p.m.

TORONTO — Amid cries of “Shame! Shame!” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was stripped of the last of his meaningful powers on Monday during a heated City Council debate, in which he argued with members of the public, charged hecklers and knocked a councilwoman down.

Ford called the move a “coup d'etat” and vowed an “outright war” in the next election.

“What's happening here today is not a democratic process, it's a dictatorship process,” the 44-year-old mayor declared.

The council voted overwhelmingly in favor of slashing Ford's office budget by 60 percent and allowing his staff to move to the deputy mayor, who will take on many of the mayor's former powers. Ford now has no legislative power and no longer chairs the executive committee, but he retains his title and ability to represent Toronto at official functions.

The debate became raucous as Ford paced around the council chamber and traded barbs with members of the public. The speaker asked security to clear the gallery and a recess was called, but not before Ford barreled toward his detractors, mowing into Councilor Pam McConnell.

Another councilor asked Ford to apologize. Ford said he was rushing to the defense of his brother, Councilor Doug Ford, and accidentally knocked McConnell down.

“I picked her up,” he said. “I ran around because I thought my brother was getting into an altercation.”

Visibly shaken after Ford ran her over, McConnell, a petite woman in her 60s, said she never expected the chaos that broke out.

“This is the seat of democracy. It is not a football field. I just wasn't ready. Fortunately, the mayor's staff was in front. They stopped me from hitting my head against the wall,” McConnell said.

The motion to strip Ford of his powers was revised from a tougher version to ward off legal challenges by letting Ford keep his title and represent the city at official functions.

The council does not have the authority to remove Ford from office unless he is convicted of a crime. It is pursuing the strongest recourse after recent revelations of Ford smoking crack cocaine and his repeated outbursts of erratic behavior.

“Mayor Ford has had many choices. ... Would he change his behavior? Would he step aside and seek help?” said Councilor John Filion. “The mayor unfortunately has chosen the path of denial. Now it's time to take away the keys.”

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