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Toronto City Council meets for last time before election

Motion to make ‘O Canada’ gender inclusive will head to executive committee after Oct 27

Mayor Rob Ford gave a speech during the final council meeting, saying that he knew he had embarrassed council at times but that he wants to move on.

Credit: Marcus Mccann

Toronto’s last city council meeting before the municipal election in the fall was not without the unusual antics that have defined the last four years under the helm of Mayor Rob Ford.

The mayor declined to comment on allegations that he had mistreated football players on the Don Bosco football team he coached for 10 years and was the subject of a “pink shirt” protest led by Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. The councillor, who invited others on Twitter to wear pink as a symbol of anti-bullying, tweeted that she was doing it to “commemorate the end of Rob Ford as Toronto’s worst mayor ever.”

Despite this, Ford happily danced and sang along with soul singer Jay Douglas as the morning session drew to a close on Aug 28. He actually had something to celebrate — according to a Forum Research poll, Ford has pulled ahead of mayoral candidate Olivia Chow, sitting just five points behind John Tory.

Member motions, of which there were more than 100, stretched the scheduled two-day council meeting to four days.

Council unanimously voted to call on the federal government to start a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. However, a motion introduced by Ward 20 Councillor Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, to ask that the words to “O Canada” be amended to be gender inclusive, didn’t make it to the council floor. Instead, the executive committee will debate the motion after the election.

Ramkhalawansingh, however, was buoyed by the close vote to refer the motion back to the executive committee, which failed in a 19 to 21 vote. The issue was first brought to her attention by a group of activists campaigning to have the anthem changed. Ramkhalawansingh says that she was also inspired to fight for it by her recent work helping to organize the WorldPride Human Rights Conference. “I wanted it to include everybody,” she says, including trans-identified people.

When executive committee meets after the election, she will be there to fight for the motion, even though she will no longer be a councillor. Ramkhalawansingh is serving as an interim councillor; the seat was left vacant when Adam Vaughan left to run in the federal by-election.

The last day of council was also marked by goodbyes to several councillors who will not be running for re-election, including Doug Ford, Mike Del Grande and Gloria Lindsay Luby. Rob Ford gave a speech in which he said that he knew he had embarrassed council at times throughout the years but that he wants to move on.

The Toronto municipal election takes place Oct 27, 2014.