Toronto City Council members voted overwhelmingly Friday to strip Mayor Rob Ford of his powers of appointment and emergency rule, an act of damage control as the leader of Canada's biggest city continues to provoke scandal and revulsion.
The City Council voted 39-3 to take away Ford's power to hire or fire the deputy mayor and chairs of the city's standing committees, Canadian media reported. Another session is planned Monday at which council members plan to transfer most of the mayor's duties, staff and budget to the office of Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly.
Ford, 44, admitted last week that he had smoked crack cocaine "in one of my drunken stupors," but only after a video showing him in the act was found by police in a related drug investigation. Ford had denied media reports that began in May that there was recorded evidence of his illegal drug use.
Two days later, the Toronto Star acquired another video that showed Ford flailing in a grossly profane tirade in which he threatened to kill someone.
Ford has apologized profusely for what he terms "mistakes" but has refused calls for his resignation or to take leave and address his personal problems with drugs and alcohol. He insists he is not an addict.
On Thursday, the embattled mayor horrified even his closest allies when he responded to new allegations revealed in police investigation documents that he had driven drunk, sexually harassed a female staffer and brought suspected prostitutes to his office.
The mayor angrily denounced the claims made in interviews with police investigators and used vulgar language on live national television to dispute the accusation that he had told the female staffer that he wanted to perform oral sex.
Ford later apologized for his "graphic remarks." As he has since the allegations of crack use surfaced six months ago, he blamed the stress brought upon him by the media for his behavior.
The mayor's crude comments shocked Canadian and international journalists covering his escalating professional crisis, spurring a daylong debate among political pundits as to Ford's fitness for office.
Unlike in most U.S. states and cities, there is no mechanism for holding a recall election in Toronto and the City Council lacks the authority to remove an elected mayor unless he is convicted of a felony and imprisoned.
But Ford's scandalous outburst on Thursday pushed authorities to seek extraordinary measures.
"The things we are seeing and hearing about Mayor Rob Ford are truly disturbing," Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a statement carried by Canadian television channels and the BBC.
Wynne said she would consider provincial legislation to give the city council members "new tools" to deal with the situation if they conclude that Ford's behavior is hampering proper governance of North America's fourth-largest city and Canada's financial hub.
The latest display of boorish behavior by Ford seemed to galvanize the city council members.
"I think there is a strong consensus on council that we have to act in the best interest for the city," Council member Denzil Minnan-Wong told the Business News Network ahead of the meeting at which Ford's appointment powers were stripped.
Ford vowed after the vote to take legal action against the council members for what he considered an illegal move to curb his authority.
On Monday, the City Council will vote on whether to bestow "all powers and duties which are not by statute assigned to the mayor" to his deputy, Kelly, until the next mayoral election in October, the Globe and Mail said.
Ford, who won office in 2010 on a campaign to "stop the gravy train" and rein in unions, has insisted he will serve out his term and likely run for reelection next year.
A poll released Friday showed support for the mayor has fallen dramatically, with 62% of respondents saying they wouldn't vote for Ford again under any circumstances.
But the survey of 665 Torontonians by Reid Ipsos for CTV, the Canadian Press broadcast division and Newstalk 1010 Radio found that 40% of respondents approved of the mayor's job performance. The poll reported a plus-or-minus 4.3% margin of error.
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