National Newswatch

TORONTO - An extraordinary debate marred by chaotic scenes saw city council strip Rob Ford of more of his mayoral powers Monday, an act he compared to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and a declaration of war.

Blasting what he called a "coup d'etat," Ford said voters should be able to pass judgment on him, not his fellow councillors.

"You guys have just attacked Kuwait," Ford said in reference to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's invasion of the emirate in 1991.

"Mark my words friends, this is going to be outright war in the next election."

At times it seemed as if violence would erupt in council chambers as a shouting match erupted between Ford, 44, and members of the public.

The besieged mayor then appeared to charge a heckler, but instead accidentally steamrolled a female councillor standing in his way, leaving her with a bruised lip.

The incident prompted yet another apology from Ford, who at one point was seen making drinking and driving gestures directed at a councillor police had warned about impaired driving.

The incidents formed a noisy backdrop to the unprecedented debate over neutering the already wounded mayor whose outrageous comments and behaviour have garnered international headlines and made him the butt of late-night talk show hosts.

Ultimately, however, as Ford quietly recused himself, council voted overwhelmingly to slash his mayoral budget and hand many of his duties — and his staff — to the deputy mayor.

Council had already passed a pair of motions on Friday stripping Ford of his ability to appoint key committee chairs or to exercise emergency powers.

Ford's lawyer, George Rust-D'Eye, said he might seek an injunction against council's decisions but he was still awaiting instructions.

City staff said they believed their actions, essentially in place until the next election in October 2014, would withstand any court scrutiny.

Another lawyer, Duff Conacher, said council had chosen a "dangerously bad process."

"Politicians judging politicians is always a bad idea," said Conacher, founding director of Democracy Watch.

"They are all undermined by personal or partisan conflicts of interest and their decision-making processes are like kangaroo courts."

Instead, he suggested, the province could put in place a sliding scale of mandatory suspensions for allegations and violations that would apply to all municipal politicians.

At the provincial legislature, Finance Minister Charles Sousa called the "antics" in Toronto distressing but showed little appetite for any intervention.

"The last thing we want is for more disruption," Sousa said.

For the first time, the Prime Minister's Office weighed in, saying the government does not condone illegal drug use, "especially by elected officials while in office."

In an interview after the council vote, Ford told CBC News "The National" host Peter Mansbridge that he's off alcohol and working to lose weight.

"Talk is cheap. If you don't see a difference in me in five months, then I'll eat my words," Ford said.

"I let my mum down, I let my brothers down, I let my wife down, my kids down, and I let my dad down — I know he's upstairs watching this," an emotional Ford said.

Ford called the "belittling" he has endured in recent weeks and recognizing that he had let people down because of alcohol use were his "come to Jesus moment."

Ford has previously admitted to smoking crack cocaine "in a drunken stupor," but in excerpts of an interview aired on CNN's "New Day" Monday, he admitted to having "smoked some crack sometimes."

Ford told reporter Bill Weir he was "sick and tired" of the allegations, hence the admissions.

"I'm not going to run around and be phoney and lie," Ford said.

"I'm not going to have someone try to blackmail me and say they got videos of this."

The mayor said he hadn't smoked crack in over a year and again denied he's an addict.

Ford also boasted about his parenting skills in light of unproven allegations to police in court documents that he was with his children while severely intoxicated.

"I'm the best father around," Ford told Weir.

On Sunday, Ford defied a request by the Toronto Argonauts to stay away from the football game.

Coun. Doug Ford said his brother had been received like a "rock star" by fans.

"He was more popular than the Argos themselves," Coun. Ford said, adding that Monday's vote was a "sad day" for the country.

In another interview — with Fox News on Sunday — Ford said he wanted one day to run for prime minister.

Last week, Ford admitted buying illegal drugs while in office, and then sparked outrage by making a crude sexual comment on live television.

He has steadfastly refused to take a leave or resign since reports surfaced in May of a video that appeared to show him smoking crack cocaine.

Police said they had recovered the video but have refused to release it.

-With files from Allison Jones and Keith Leslie.

The Canadian Press
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