I have been reluctant to write about the ongoing and all-too-real reality tv show that is Toronto Mayor Rod Ford, but the story raises interesting legal questions regarding the available remedies (or lack thereof) when a mayor has lost the ability to fulfill the responsibilities assigned to the office under the City of Toronto Act.
Aside from one's personal opinions regarding the mayor's past and present conduct, it is clearly affecting his ability to fulfill at least two responsibilities of the mayor's office. First, under s. 133(1)(d) of the City of Toronto Act, it is part of the role of mayor as head of council "to represent the City at official functions". Back in the summer, Ford failed to show up at the opening of the Taste of the Danforth festival; a few hours later, he was seen wandering drunk along the Danforth. This week, he was asked not to march in the upcoming Santa Claus parade. Whatever one thinks of Ford's follies, they are preventing him from fulfilling this legislatively assigned responsibility. Second, under s. 134(c), as chief executive officer, the mayor "shall...act as the representative of the City both within and outside the City, and promote the City locally, nationally and internationally". Ford's confession that he had smoked crack cocaine "probably in one of [his] drunken stupors" made international news, and US media closely follow his increasingly outrageous every word. Arguably, Ford is no longer representing, and no longer able to represent, the City of Toronto, as he is too busy representing, defending and just being himself. Any reasonable person, consciously acting as a representative of another individual or group, would not have said the things Ford said to the media last Thursday morning. (I have not included a link here as, really, it's unnecessary and gratuitous).
So, what is to be done? What legal remedy is provided for a mayor's failure to fulfill these responsibilities? The answer, it seems, is none. In a way, this is as it should be. The responsibilities described above are broad and general and so in other cases could leave room for partisan arguments that a mayor was not fulfilling their responsibilities. In other cases, the most appropriate remedy is a change of leadership following an election. This may seem an increasingly unsatisfactory remedy in this case, but amending the City of Toronto Act (see also here) to fix what is hopefully a highly anomalous situation may not be desirable in the long-term. The approach taken by Toronto City Council seems preferable, passing motions reducing the powers of this mayor, to make clear through the near-unanimous Council support for these motions that, as a matter of fact, this mayor no longer represents the City of Toronto and its residents, even if he hangs on to the title.