Canada: Did The City Of Toronto Council Have The Right To Strip The Mayor Of His Powers?

"This is a modern-day overthrow of an elected official. This is wrong," – Mayor Rob Ford as quoted by

This bulletin examines some of the legal questions regarding the limitation to Mayor Ford's powers by Toronto City Council.

The Québec Precedent

Notably, Mayor Ford is not the first Canadian mayor to find himself under fire from his city council. In 2012 the former mayor of Mascouche, Québec, Richard Marcotte, was mired in scandal when the Province of Québec enacted Bill 10 – legislation that granted power to the Québec people to request a judge to suspend any municipal politician who is facing serious charges.2

Mayor Marcotte was charged with alleged kickbacks and fraud involving the awarding of municipal contracts. Although the allegations clearly differ from those against Mayor Ford, as with Toronto's Mayor, demonstrators rallied outside of city council demanding Marcotte's resignation. The jeering at city council meetings allegedly reached the point where the municipality was spending an extra $6,000-8,000 per Council meeting for police services.3 Marcotte's own political party banned him, fellow councillors consulted with lawyers to see if they could challenge Marcotte's team and pleaded with Québec's Minister of Municipal Affairs to remove Marcotte from office.4 After months of significant public outcry demanding Marcotte's resignation,5 he finally agreed to step down.6

After Marcotte's resignation, Québec's provincial legislators enacted Bill 10. Marcotte commented that "Bill 10 is clearly a politically motivated law and, from what I understand, it is constitutionally dodgy since it is only aimed at one type of elected official."7

On August 29, 2013, Bill 10 was invoked for the first time to remove the mayor of St-Remi, Québec, Michel Lavoie. This action was later affirmed by a Québec Superior Court Judge. An outraged citizen, Sylvie Boyer, initiated court proceedings arguing that Lavoie should be removed from office prior to the municipal elections.8 Despite protests from Lavoie, the judge declared that Lavoie was temporarily unfit to hold office. At the time, Lavoie was facing charges of fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust pursuant to an investigation by the provincial anti-corruption task force, UPAC.9

No similar legislation to Québec's Bill 10 exists in Ontario.

What Motions Were Approved at Toronto City Council?

Unlike Marcotte and Lavoie, Mayor Ford has not been charged with any crime. To date, the Province of Ontario has been unwilling to pass legislation to deal with the concerns of the majority of Toronto City Councillors. As a result, the Councillors decided to take their own steps to limit Mayor Ford's powers.

More than twenty motions were passed by Toronto City Council on November 15 and 18, 2013 to strip the Mayor of many of his powers. The Councillors declared that they were only limiting his "procedural powers" granted to him through council approved by-laws and not impacting or reducing his "statutory powers" granted under the City of Toronto Act, 2006.10 The motions passed included:11

  • To cut the mayor's office budget for the remainder of 2013
  • To cut the mayor's office budget in 2014
  • To give responsibility for the mayor's staff to the deputy mayor
  • To remove the mayor's right to designate "key" matters at council
  • To remove the mayor's designates on the budget committee
  • To remove the mayor's authority to temporarily borrow funds
  • To give the deputy mayor certain authorities revoked from the mayor such as chairing certain committees and the administration of the operating budget
  • To appoint the deputy mayor as the chair of the executive committee in the mayor's place
  • To remove the mayor from all other committees

What Powers Does The City of Toronto Act Grant the Mayor?

All municipalities' powers are delegated by the provincial legislators. The City of Toronto is governed by the provincially enacted City of Toronto Act, 200612 (the "Act"). Mayor Ford's roles and responsibilities are specifically legislated in the Act wherein it states the Mayor shall:

  • act as chief executive officer of the City;
  • uphold and promote the purposes of the City;
  • act as the representative of the City both within and outside the City, and promote the City locally, nationally and internationally; and
  • participate in and foster activities that enhance the economic, social and environmental well-being of the City and its residents;
  • preside over meetings of council so that its business can be carried out efficiently and effectively;
  • provide leadership to council;
  • represent the City at official functions; and
  • carry out the duties of the head of council under this or any other Act.13

Through the use of the word "shall", the Act requires that Mayor Ford perform these duties; they are not optional.

What if any Recourse is Available to the Mayor?

Immediately preceding the November 18th Council meeting, Mayor Ford threatened to proceed to court to reinstate his powers, declaring Council's actions as the equivalent of Iraq invading Kuwait.14 To date no action has been commenced. As well, the Mayor did not seek an interlocutory injunction to prevent Toronto City Council from passing the motions. To obtain such an injunction, the Mayor would have had to demonstrate irreparable harm,15 which would have been difficult for the Mayor to establish.

However, it is possible that Mayor Ford could challenge the motions by action or application for judicial review. The Judicial Review Procedure Act16 permits an application for judicial review to challenge an exercise of a statutory power of decision. A statutory power of decision includes a power or right conferred by or under a statute to make a decision deciding the legal rights, powers, privileges, immunities, duties or liabilities of any person.17 By amending the Council's procedural bylaws, City Council was exercising statutory powers granted to them under the Act. As a result, for the purposes of the Judicial Review Procedure Act, the Toronto City Council's actions may constitute a statutory power of decision that has the result of deciding the legal powers or duties of the Mayor. The motions passed by Toronto City Council may therefore be challenged in the Ontario courts.

Further, it would appear that Mayor Ford may have standing to bring an application for judicial review. The Supreme Court of Canada decision of Finlay v Canada (Minister of Finance),18 sets out that standing in a judicial review arises out of a "direct, personal interest". As a person with a direct stake in the outcome of the Toronto City Council motions, it is likely that Mayor Ford may have standing to bring a court proceeding.

The Motions and the Act

Mayor Ford's refusal to use the courts thus far does not appear to be based on concerns about access to the courts. Instead, Mayor Ford may be weighing his chances for success or failure in the courts or determining whether his fight is better waged in the court of public opinion. With respect to the former, the key question is whether the motions passed by City Council have impacted the Mayor's ability to perform his statutory duties as enumerated under the Act and therefore ultra vires Toronto City Council.

Of all the mayor's statutory responsibilities, it appears that the motions passed by council may particularly impact the mayor's ability to provide leadership. Leadership is broadly defined as the action of guiding or directing a group.19 The mayor's procedural powers at Council meetings and on related committees arguably constitute significant tools for carrying out his duties as Mayor. Additionally, some of the mayor's powers have been expressly removed and delegated to the Deputy Mayor. There may be a valid question as to whether this removal of power means that Mayor Ford is no longer able to "lead" the Toronto City Council.

Several of the motions passed would appear to less directly impact the mayor's ability to lead council. However, if the mayor can no longer designate or set times for key matters and can no longer elect to speak first or last on agenda items does this preclude him from leading council? The Mayor is also no longer consulted by the City Clerk on the urgency of motions without notice after the agenda closes. Although seemingly small, these procedural powers may be of great use to the mayor to highlight key matters or to set the tone and direction for discussion of agenda items. It is possible that Mayor Ford could argue the cumulative effect of the motions passed has materially impacted his ability to provide leadership to council (by emptying his tool box) and thus prevent him from being able to exercise his responsibilities as set out in the statute.

Additionally, the Mayor's budget and staff were significantly reduced – in 2013 from approximately $525,000 to $95,000 and in 2014 from approximately $1,594,000 to $712,000. Mayor Ford may argue that the Mayor's budget and staff support is at the core of his ability to satisfy his statutory responsibilities, such as acting as the chief executive officer of the City. Without the proper resources to administer the duties of his office, he may argue that these motions are preventing him from performing his statutory obligations as he no longer has the resources available to do so.

Despite the motions to remove power from the Mayor, Mayor Ford remains a significant presence at City Hall. As seen during the recent property tax debate, the loss of certain procedural powers has not impacted the Mayor's ability to make his views known to Council.


Valid questions remain concerning whether the effect of the motions passed by Toronto City Council restrict Mayor Ford's powers in a way that prevents him from carrying out his statutory duties. The effect of some of the motions may not be immediately clear. Only time will tell as to whether Mayor Ford's remaining budget, staff and powers are sufficient to meet the demands of the Mayor's office to carry out his statutory duties as set out in the Act.

At the Monday, November 18, 2013 Special Council Meeting, Mayor Ford threatened "outright war" against City Council for stripping him of his powers as Mayor of the largest city in Canada and the fourth largest city in North America.20 It has been over two weeks since the meeting and so far "all is quiet on the western front". Is this just the calm before the storm?


1. Rob Ford promises 'outright war' as powers further restricted, retrieved November 29, 2013.

2. Supra, note 4.

3. How Quebec offers a model for forcing out mayors in legal trouble, retrieved November 29, 2013.

4. Mascouche calls on government to oust mayor, retrieved November 29, 2013.

5. Ibid.

6. Mascouche, Que., mayor to resign amid fraud allegations, retrieved 29 November 2013.

7. Third Quebec mayor resigns amidst corruption allegations, retrieved November 29, 2013.

8. Former mayor, suspended from office, is back in the contest, retrieved November 29, 2013.

9. St.-Rémi mayor stripped of his duties, retrieved November 29, 2013.

10. City of Toronto Act, 2006, SO 2006, c. 11, Sch. A.

11. Specifically, through the motions, in accordance with section 27-7 of the Council Procedures, City Council suspended the necessary rules and substituted special rules in Chapter 27 of the Council Procedures. Council also made amendments to the Powers, Duties and Office Operations of the Mayor by amending certain sections of Chapter 27 and Chapter 30 of the Council Procedures and by amending the Public Appointments Policy.

12. City of Toronto Act, 2006, SO 2006, c. 11, Sch. A.

13. Ibid., ss. 133 and 134.

14. Rob Ford vows to wage 'outright war' with 'anti-democratic' council after losing key powers, retrieved December 2, 2013.

15. Irreparable harm is one-third of the well-established test in RJR-MacDonald Inc. v Canada (Attorney General), 1994 CanLII 117 (SCC).

16. RSO 1990, c. J.1.

17. Ibid., s.1.

18. [1986] 2 S.C.R. 607 at paras. 21-22.

19. See the definition of leadership.

20. Rob Ford vows to wage 'outright war' with 'anti-democratic' council after losing key powers, retrieved December 2, 2013.

The foregoing provides only an overview. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, a qualified lawyer should be consulted.

© Copyright 2013 McMillan LLP

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Annik Forristal
Adam Chisholm
Ciaron Czajkowski
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions