TORONTO – An extraordinary debate marred by chaotic scenes saw city council strip Rob Ford of more of his powers Monday, an act he compared to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and a declaration of war.
As a shouting match erupted between Ford and members of the public, the besieged mayor seemed to charge a heckler but instead knocked down a female councillor, 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 who police had warned about impaired driving.
The incidents formed a noise backdrop to the unprecedented debate over neutering the badly wounded mayor.
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,” he said in reference to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s invasion of the emirate.
“Mark my words friends, this is going to be outright war in the next election.”
Ultimately, however, it made little difference and council voted overwhelmingly to slash Ford’s mayoral budget and hand many of his duties 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 has threatened to take legal action against council, but city staff said they believed the motions would withstand court scrutiny.
One 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.”
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.
The full interview was to be broadcast Monday night on the show “Anderson Cooper 360.”
On Sunday, Ford defied a request by the Toronto Argonauts to stay away from the football game.
Doug Ford said the mayor had been received like a “rock star” at the game.
“He was more popular than the Argos themselves,” Coun. Ford said.
In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Ford said wanted one day to run for prime minister.
Last Wednesday, Ford admitted buying illegal drugs while in office, and a day later 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.
In court Monday, a judge dismissed an application from the lawyer for a man charged with drug trafficking and seen with the mayor in a photograph to be allowed to view the “crack” video.
With Allison Jones and Keith Leslie.