What can we do about him?
Well, there's laughing and crying, but you knew that already.
No, I mean, like, to get rid of him?
Can council remove him?
Can the province remove him?
In theory, yes - the province can pass pretty much any law it wants with regard to municipalities. But it's not gonna take the bait here. Needless intervention in politically charged municipal shitshows isn't really this government's thing (except when it comes to transit).
I've heard that if he's convicted of a crime, he loses his seat?
The province previously said it was more open to getting involved if Ford was convicted, but they've now concluded that it'd be undemocratic to do so. In any case, there's nothing in law that kicks out a member of council if he or she is convicted of a crime. Municipal lawyer John Mascarin brings up the case of Councillor Ana Bailão, who was charged in October 2012 with driving over the legal blood-alcohol limit. She pled guilty in January and kept her seat.
It's because she received no jail sentence. "Not even, like, three days' imprisonment," says Mascarin, "because that would've ousted her, and that's what normally happens on minor offenses. They'll do anything but get any jail time, because then they're booted from office."
So you don't lose your seat if you're convicted of a crime, but you do lose your seat if you go to jail?
Yes. As per the City Of Toronto Act, "A member of city council is disqualified from holding office if, at any time during the term of office of that member, he or she" would not be eligible to vote if a municipal election "was held at that time." (The Municipal Act, which applies to all other Ontario municipalities, has the same clause.) The moment you cease to be an eligible voter, you're disqualified from holding office and your seat is declared vacant.
Because people in jail can't vote?
Exactly. Ontario's Municipal Elections Act specifies that "a person who is serving a sentence of imprisonment in a penal or correctional institution" is barred from voting in municipal elections.
That makes sense.
No, actually it doesn't. The Canada Elections Act says that "every person who is imprisoned in a correctional institution serving a sentence of two years or more" is prohibited from voting in federal elections. But the Supreme Court struck down that section in 2002, and the chief electoral officer has declined to enforce it ever since. And Ontario's Election Act sets out no restrictions on prisoners voting in provincial elections. So in Ontario, inmates can take part in federal and provincial elections but not in municipal elections.
"I assume it is because no one has brought a [court] challenge," Freya Kristjanson, who also practices municipal law, writes in an email.
Wouldn't some municipalities with larger correctional facilities end up having a disproportionate prison vote?
Huh. Well, what if the mayor, say, gets arrested in a bar fight and is kept in a cell until morning?
Nope. It has to be imprisonment "pursuant to a conviction," says Mascarin. "Not just jailed overnight because they're holding you." He offers the example of the G20. "If you had a council member out there and he was put in a holding tank with everybody - that wouldn't qualify, in my view." It has to be imprisonment as a sentence that flows from a conviction.
So he'd lose his seat as soon as he's sentenced to jail time?
No. It's when a person starts serving that sentence.
But couldn't a case be tied up in appeals for years before a person ever sets foot in a correctional facility?
What sort of things might Rob Ford be charged with?
Ahahahaha. You're not tricking me into libel territory.
Is imprisonment really the only legal mechanism to pry a municipal representative out of office between elections?
Well, no. If you break the Municipal Conflict Of Interest Act without meeting that law's definition of a good excuse, you're out. This time last year, a judge dismissed Ford from office for doing exactly that, but a Divisional Court panel later overturned that decision on appeal. The Municipal Elections Act also sets out forfeiture penalties for certain violations and corrupt practices that amount to having cheated to get in office in the first place. But though auditors found many "apparent contraventions" of the law in Ford's campaign finances, the Compliance Audit Committee declined to pursue charges against him.
We wait for the conclusion of Project Brazen 2, the police investigation of the mayor, which could result in charges beyond those already laid against Sandro Lisi and Jamshid Bahrami.
How long will that take?
How should I know?
And until then?
We go back to laughing and crying.