Straight Talk
JOE WARMINGTON - Would Rob Ford have backed a vote?

Rob Ford, right, flanked by brother Doug, speaks to the media at City Hall yesterday after a judge ruled the mayor can remain in office until his conflict-of-interest appeal is heard Jan. 7

Credits: DAVE THOMAS/QMI AGENCY

JOE WARMINGTON | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO - Which way would Rob Ford have voted on the question of holding a special $7-million byelection to help save previous mayor David Miller from oblivion thanks to debatable actions from fierce political foes?

Just asking.

Remember, while a councillor, penny-pinching Ford complained about the costs of sandwiches and pop available for supper break during long council meetings.

And as mayor he has made a huge dent into the Gravy Train.

Ford has proven he hates to spend taxpayers' money, and his supporters love him for it.

His enemies loath his resolve in this cult-like ideological conquest.

The result may be that Ford will have a potential hypocrisy-test coming his way this winter should he not win his court appeal to keep his job.

Is he for the taxpayers every time?

Or only when the cost is incurred by his political opponents and not the result of his own folly?

It's a unique, if not ironic, position he has put himself in - with a lot of help from a politically motivated Paul Magder, his "pro bono" lawyer Clayton Ruby and a by-the-book judge, Charles Hackland.

As the city is mired in problems, from gridlock to crime and poverty, nobody on any side is coming out of this process without mud on them.

The common belief is that the end result will be a by-election - called in the interest of accommodating Ford, ensuring democracy and to make sure it's the public, and not the courts, deciding who its mayor is.

But it's not a slam-dunk.

In fact, if it comes to this, there's going to be one hell of a debate on how to proceed.

There were some clues offered by councillors questioned by reporters Wednesday.

"Maybe the message out of all this is we don't need a mayor," Councillor Adam Vaughan told reporters.

Come again?

"We have been operating for a year without a mayor," Vaughan said in a TV interview. "He's rarely engaged in city business."

Vaughan also said: "We are working hard with or without a mayor. He's not here most of the time. We found a way to work around him."

It's a loaded analysis and he's not exactly gracious or merciful, but Ford wasn't either when he was in opposition, so any "don't-pick-on-me-mean-lefty" cries will fall on deaf ears.

From Vaughan's hints, could council decide to stick it to Ford with a view to save the money or, instead of voting for a byelection, appoint someone acceptable to all sides to sit in the chair until 2014?

Or will an outraged public decide there's no cost too high to ensure democracy and insist this be settled at the ballot box?

With such a right-left split on council, and with there being so much up in the air, it's difficult to know how all this will shake out.

"I will fight to not spend that money and not have a byelection," said Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who was part of Ford's executive committee until last week. "Do you think either Ford brother would support having one if it was anybody else in this position?"

It's a fair question and one that will certainly put them on the spot.

Is Rob Ford's desire to be at the helm of the city trump the cost of $7 million billed to the taxpayers of the city?

Or do the taxpayers need Ford even more now, as the high spenders get ready to chow down without the power of their scrutiny?

If Ford could be assured that Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday would carry on his fiscally conservative agenda, would he consider - out of respect for the taxpayer - sparing the city the expense of an election and, instead, mount a comeback in 2014?

What do you think Ford would have said had Miller been in these circumstances?

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