Ontario’s premier said Wednesday she bore no political grudge against Toronto’s controversial Mayor Rob Ford despite turning down his request for a meeting to discuss city-related matters.
Ford was stripped of much of his mayoral powers in November, following his shocking admission that he had smoked crack cocaine during one of his “drunken stupors” and bought illegal drugs.
Most of his responsibilities were transferred to deputy mayor Norm Kelly, who is expected to meet with Wynne to discuss the city’s request for provincial disaster relief funding following an ice storm that hit Toronto last month.
When asked how she could ignore a democratically elected mayor, Wynne insisted that she was simply working in line with the city’s decisions.
“This isn’t about a political grudge,” said Wynne.
“The city council of Toronto made a decision about the leadership at the city. I have been consistent in my approach, which is to meet with the deputy mayor who has the responsibility to be the leader at Toronto city council and that’s what I will continue to do.”
Wynne’s comments came a day after Ford requested a “one-on-one” meeting with the premier next week.
“I really need to be strategic about the meetings that I take and so meeting with the person who has the leadership authority and the leadership responsibility, that’s my responsibility,” said Wynne.
“As long as this situation is in place, city council has given Norm Kelly, the deputy mayor, the responsibilities and the authority and that’s why I’m meeting with him.”
Ford still had the power to declare an emergency during the ice storm which highlighted the city’s current power structure, although doing so would have transferred decision-making powers to Kelly.
While Ford decided against such a declaration, Wynne said the mayor’s decision had no impact on the aid being offered by the province.
“I made it very clear that all of the resources that were needed by all of the municipalities that were affected were available to those municipalities, whether there was a state of emergency declared or not,” Wynne said.
The storm downed hydro lines, left hundreds of thousands in the dark for days and stalled road and air travel.
It also led Toronto council to vote Monday in favour of asking the province to declare the city a disaster area in order to qualify for relief funding under an Ontario program.
City staff have said Toronto faces a cleanup bill of at least $106 million from the ice storm on top of $65.2 million in costs arising from a severe rainstorm on July 8.
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