As a growing chorus of councillors call for Mayor Rob Ford to take a leave of absence in the wake of a stunning admission that he smoked crack while mayor, questions have followed about what legal mechanisms exist for removing him from office. According to municipal lawyer John Mascarin, there are several scenarios in which Ford could find himself out of office.

Jail time

Other than resigning, incarceration is perhaps the scenario that would most directly result in the mayor stepping down. Under the law, he could not remain in office if he were incarcerated.

But despite a slew of embarrassing revelations linking him to criminal activity, Ford has not actually been charged with a crime.

Even if he were charged, it would have to be an indictable offence that could land the mayor with jail time.

“It would have to be a serious crime,” Mascarin says.

He adds “conviction is not enough. You have to actually be imprisoned.”

Missing meetings

If Ford were to miss council meetings for three months in a row, that would be grounds for him to be removed from office.

However Mascarin says such a long absence would be unusual.

“It would be unlikely unless he was gone away to a substance abuse place where he had to be housed there,” Mascarin says.

Even if he were to go to a treatment facility for an extended period, council could give him a reprieve.

“If council authorizes (the absence) by resolution, they could extend it,” Mascarin says.

Given that many councillors are calling on Ford to take a break to deal with his problems rather than step down altogether, it seems likely council would grant the mayor such a leave.

Province steps in

Some councillors – notably Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong – have said they would ask for the province to step in and remove Ford if he doesn’t take a leave of absence.

However Mascarin says this option is very unlikely to succeed.

“My view is that it would be so remote. I can’t believe the province would go in and intrude to that degree when there haven’t been any charges,” he says.

A number of councillors, such as John Fillion and David Shiner have said such a request is unlikely to be taken up by the province, which holds ultimate jurisdiction over municipal affairs, but is hesitant to micromanage municipalities.

Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey has said the province can’t remove Ford unless he’s convicted of a crime and Premier Kathleen Wynne has said council has tools at its disposal to deal with the mayor.

Council steps in

While council doesn’t have the authority to remove the mayor, they could curb his powers while he remains in office. Fillion has already said he plans to table a motion at city council that would transfer to council the mayor’s ability to make key appointments. Most notably, the motion would give council the right to appoint people to the powerful executive committee and would allow council to appoint a deputy mayor if the current deputy mayor, Norm Kelly, decides to step aside.

Such a move, Mascarin says, would be allowed under the City of Toronto Act.

“Council has the authority to establish an executive committee,” Mascarin says. “They could change the rules so that the mayor is not the person appointing people.”

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