Ford sorry, vows to fight for mayor’s job
TORONTO — A contrite Rob Ford finally offered a qualified apology on Tuesday for the way he had handled his conflict of interest situation, but said he would fight to stay on as mayor.
At a news conference, Ford said his appeal of a judge’s decision to boot him from office should not be construed as criticism of the courts.
“Looking back, maybe, I could have expressed myself in a different way,” Ford said.
“To everyone who believes I should have done this differently, I sincerely apologize.”
Playing an emotional trump card, the embattled mayor said the “entire matter” started because he “loves to help kids play football.”
“I was focused on raising money to help underprivileged youth.”
To that end, Ford solicited donations from lobbyists for his private football foundation using city letterhead.
He repeatedly refused the integrity commissioner’s orders to repay the $3,150, and was booted Monday for conflict because he voted at a council meeting on the repayment.
“I never believed there was a conflict of interest because I had nothing to gain, and the city had nothing to lose,” Ford said.
He said he took part in the council vote because he considered it important to answer the accusations made against him.
The mayor’s comments came after the city’s top lawyer said Ford could not run in any byelection if one is called to choose his successor and his lawyer said he is seeking a stay of the judge’s ruling.
The stay application will be heard Dec. 5.
City solicitor Anna Kinastowski told council that a judge’s ruling booting Ford from office for the “current term” precludes that option.
“It is my opinion that that word ’term’ means 2010 to 2014,” Kinastowski said.
“That is our interpretation of that particular fact.”
On Monday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland ordered Ford removed from office for violating conflict of interest rules.
Ford, Hackland found in a scathing ruling, was “wilfully blind” in taking part in the council vote on whether to repay the $3,150 he had solicited.
Hackland could have barred Ford from running again for seven years, but instead opted to disqualify him for the “current term.”
Ford said he would fight the decision and planned to run in any byelection — estimated to cost about $7 million — that council calls to fill his seat.
He said he was elected to a job that he wants to finish.
“I feel it’s important to work through the appeal system so I can continue to do the work I was elected to do by the taxpayers of this city,” he said.
Coun. Paula Fletcher said council will probably go with the solicitor’s advice that the “term” runs from when he was elected in 2010 until 2014.
“Sometimes the mayor interprets the rules differently than everybody else,” she said.
Ford’s lawyer said Tuesday the Divisional Court will hear the appeal of Hackland’s ruling Jan. 7.
The mayor also appeared Tuesday at an event outside city hall honouring the Toronto Argonauts, who won the Grey Cup on the weekend.
There was a mix of cheers and boos in the crowd, and some heckled and laughed when he was introduced as mayor.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday labelled calls by some councillors for Ford to resign as “political comment.”
Holyday said Ford has the right to stay on as mayor until his appeal is decided.
“I know he feels bad about it and wishes it wouldn’t have happened but he’s got to take his advice from his solicitor,” Holyday said.
—With files from Linda Nguyen.