Doug Ford at a City Hall press conference, October 17, 2012.
Doug Ford is staying mum on his brother's whereabouts, as councillors criticize the mayor for missing key decisions on the 2013 budget.
Mayor Rob Ford was last spotted December 10 at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, hopping a flight to an unknown location.
In an email to NOW on Monday, the mayor's office wrote that Ford "is taking some personal time off during the holiday season, as much as his schedule allows. He will be returning shortly."
But beyond that, the details of his unannounced vacation remain a mystery.
On Monday at City Hall, Doug Ford, the councillor for Etobicoke North, said he wouldn't be answering any questions about where the mayor is.
"Can he not take a week off? Give me a break," Councillor Ford said.
"If people want to pick on him [for] going on a vacation for one week, tell them to get something better to do."
The councillor wouldn't say whether Ford has returned from his travels, but did promise that "you'll be seeing Rob" sometime this week. Asked whether the mayor will be home for Christmas, Ford said, "Of course he will."
But Councillor Joe Mihevc says that the mayor is missing crucial business at City Hall, including debate over the 2013 budget. He believes the mayor has been advised to lay low pending the outcome of the appeal of his conflict of interest case next month, but in the process he's putting political considerations over his duty as mayor.
"He has always laid claim that Toronto is his first and ultimate concern. But when you're missing in action, that is evidence to the contrary," said Mihevc.
"He should be here."
Other councillors were less concerned about the mayor's pre-Christmas vacation, however.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong said Ford is not doing anything different than previous mayors.
"When did David Miller ever attend a budget meeting? I don't think he ever did," Minnan-Wong told reporters.
Councillor Adam Vaughan, who has expressed mayoral ambitions of his own, said that the business of the city will continue whether Ford is in his office or not.
"The reality is that those of us on council who are showing up to talk about the budget, to talk about these ideas, are working together and making things happen," said Vaughan. "And if that's done without a mayor, that's done without a mayor."
While the 2013 budget is much less controversial than the 2012 austerity plan, there was at least one important development on the file Monday during the mayor's absence, and it's unclear whether he approved it.
His budget chief, Councillor Mike Del Grande, put forward a motion to increase taxes an additional .05 per cent, on top of the previously forecast 1.95 per cent hike.
The modest raise, which would have to be approved by Ford's executive committee and city council, would bring next year's tax increase to 2 per cent and generate an additional $1,150,000 for the city. The money would go towards expanding priority centres and staving off cuts to the Student Nutrition Program, the Toronto Botanical Gardens, and community investment grants, among other programs.
Since taking office Ford has vowed to keep property taxes as low as possible, and in his weekly email address on Friday there was no mention of a 2 per cent increase. Instead he championed the lower 1.95 per cent figure.
Del Grande would not say Monday whether the mayor had approved the slightly larger hike. Asked whether he had discussed the surprise motion with Ford, the budget chief was coy.
"Was the mayor aware?" he asked. "The mayor has entrusted me to do that I feel needs to be done, and I've done what I feel I need to do."