Scandal-scarred Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was stripped of many of his powers Monday at a raucous City Council meeting that turned out to be a real knockdown affair.
Canada's most famous politician, charging across the crowded chamber to assist his brother during an "altercation," barreled into a female lawmaker — sweeping her off her feet and leaving her with a fat lip.
"It was a complete accident," Ford said later. "I sincerely apologize."
The incident happened as legislators debated a series of measures to strip Ford of much of his staff, budget and authority after a stunning run of bad behavior that included crack-smoking, drug-buying and drunk-driving.
The meeting was full of drama: lawmakers pleaded with Ford to get help; the mayor vowed revenge against anyone who voted against him; and spectators shouted "Shame!"
But the most surreal moment came when Ford, who appears to be in the 300-pound range, suddenly darted across the room and right into Councilor Pam McConnell, who fell. Video of the mishap seemed to show him helping to pull the woman back up.
"I rushed over there because my brother was in an altercation," Ford explained when one of the lawmakers announced McConnell had a swollen lip and demanded an apology from him.
Apology aside, the 44-year-old mayor was mostly defiant as lawmakers turned him into little more than a figurehead for Canada's largest city.
"It's a coup d'etat, that's all this is," Ford said as he arrived at City Hall.
"Is this an emergency?" Ford later demanded during a question-and-answer session about the motion.
A chorus of "Yes!" came from spectators behind him.
Just before the vote, Ford gave an impassioned speech that included a tortured analogy in which he compared the Council to former Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein and himself to Kuwait.
Aaron Harris / Reuters
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford reacts during a special council meeting at City Hall in Toronto November 18, 2013.
"This is going to be outright war in the next election," he said.
"You’re absolutely right I’m mad because every one of you guys have sinned!" he said, continuing to rant even as the microphone was cut.
"What goes around comes around friends. Remember what I'm saying."
The mayor's chief defender was his politician brother Doug, who denounced the session as a "kangaroo court" and said if his colleagues wanted to get rid of the mayor, they should call an election.
Several legislators said the motion to sideline the mayor was undemocratic and would cause chaos in municipal government. Others expressed sympathy for Ford and urged him to get help.
“I believe the mayor is ill and I believe some of the decisions he’s made lately are because of that,” Councilor Georgio Mammoliti said. "I think you're addicted, Mr. Mayor."
Councilor Adam Vaughan agreed: "You need help and I hope that someone can convince you to get it.”
Councilor John Filion said Ford had given him and other legislators little choice but to sideline him.
"It's time to take away the keys," he said.
"The mayor can end the drama but he has chosen not to."
The sweeping measure under consideration Monday follows two other more-limited motions passed by an overwhelming vote on Friday.
While Ford was relatively subdued during last week's meeting, he regained his bluster over the weekend — giving interviews in which he insisted he's not an addict, and showing up for the third quarter of the Toronto Argonauts football playoff game even after the league asked him to stay away.
At the game, he was wearing the same jersey he had on last week when he shocked the city by using crude language on live television to deny an allegation that he pressured a female staffer to engage in oral sex.
Despite his myriad confessions, the conservative-leaning mayor claims he's being persecuted for his efforts to curb the Council's tax-and-spend ways.
Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a former Ford ally, said it had nothing to do with politics.
"Our mayor...the Argonauts don’t even want him to go the football game and they don’t want him to wear the jersey," he said.
"You, sir, have lost the ability to lead this city."
Doug Ford countered that his brother was treated like a hero by people in the stands.
“He couldn’t get out the door for three hours because they were surrounding him, cheering him on,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ford and his brother made their debut on a current events television show Monday night called "Ford Nation" on the Sun News Network in Canada.
Rob Ford told viewers they would see a change in him over the next few months. "I'll take a urine sample right now," Ford said on the show, which was taped Sunday.
First published November 18 2013, 8:29 PM