TORONTO COUNCIL BACKS LEGAL FEES FOR AUGIMERI; REJECTS DEBATE ON O CANADA

Aug 27, 2014

By Scott Walker

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Mayor Rob Ford is angry that taxpayers will be on the hook for legal fees after a city councillor was found to be in breach of council’s code of ethics.

The Ethics Commissioner found Maria Augimeri violated the code when she called political rival Gus Cusimano a “criminal” in an Italian-language newspaper. She based her comment on Cusimano being found guilty of breaching the municipal election act in 2010. But Cusimano does not have a criminal record.

He demanded and received an apology, but not before lawyers became involved.

City Council voted yesterday to pay Cusimano’s $5,000 legal fees. Mayor Ford says taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for Augimeri’s mistake. He used the vote as justification for his call for new councillors to be elected.

But other councillors say paying legal fees is city policy, and it shouldn’t be applied on a random basis. Gord Perks says there are lawsuits all the time, and many of them are frivolous.

Council also rejected a motion calling on the federal government to change the words to the National Anthem.

Councillor Ceta Ramkhalawansingh sponsored the motion to change the third line in O Canada from “in all thy sons command” to the more gender-neutral “in all of us command.”

The motion required a two-thirds majority to be added to the agenda, but fewer than half of the councillors favoured a debate.

The change to the lyrics is being promoted by a group of prominent Canadian women, including author Margaret Atwood and former Prime Minister Kim Campbell. The Harper government appeared set to make the change in 2010. But it never followed through.

A poll last year found two-thirds of English-speaking Canadians don’t want O Canada changed.

City Council’s last session before the election resumes this morning at 9:30. There are 67 items left on the agenda.

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