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Mayor’s apology settles feud with top doctor

Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's medical officer of health, speaks to the media before getting a flu shot at Atrium on Bay in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.

Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

It took a couple of tries and close to a year, but Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has apologized to the city's top doctor after criticizing him during a radio show.

The mayor's apology, delivered Tuesday, came to light when the city council agenda was posted online Thursday. A report from Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper said medical health officer David McKeown accepted the mayor's apology and the commissioner would not recommend further sanctions.

The mayor's press secretary did not respond to e-mails inquiring about the apology or its timing.

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A spokesperson for Dr. McKeown said the medical health officer was at a conference. The spokesperson said she understood the mayor had called Dr. McKeown to issue the apology, but had no further details.

The radio show was broadcast last April and a complaint was filed with the integrity commissioner in May by left-leaning Councillor John Filion, then chairman of the Board of Health.

During the show, the mayor and Councillor Doug Ford discussed a Toronto Public Health report on walking and cycling. The report mentioned, among other things, the value of lower speed limits when it comes to pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths.

Both the mayor and the councillor criticized the report and Dr. McKeown. Rob Ford said the medical health officer's salary was "an embarrassment" and said he would "look into that and try to straighten things out."

Instead of apologizing right away, the mayor doubled down. In June, he told the integrity commissioner in a letter it was ridiculous for Dr. McKeown to spend thousands of dollars on the report.

The mayor wrote another letter in October, but the commissioner said it was not an "effective apology" because it did not show remorse, mention the conduct that was the subject of the complaint, and repeated criticisms of the report.

Ms. Leiper found in October that the mayor breached the Code of Conduct for Members of Council by "demeaning" Dr. McKeown's professional reputation. The matter was deferred while an unrelated court case against the mayor was heard.

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Ms. Leiper had found that Doug Ford, who had asked why Dr. McKeown still had a job, also breached the code of conduct. He apologized in October.

Thursday also marked Ms. Leiper's first public response to the appeal court decision that allowed the mayor to remain in office.

The mayor had been ordered removed from office in November for an earlier vote to let himself off the hook for failing to repay $3,150 in improper donations to the Rob Ford Football Foundation, which provides football equipment for underprivileged high schools. The appeal court ruled last month that city council did not have the authority to order the mayor to pay back the money in the first place.

It was Ms. Leiper who had recommended the mayor pay back the funds so as not to punish the charity. In a report, also posted online Thursday, Ms. Leiper and the city solicitor recommended no further action be taken on the matter.

"Given the nature of the issues, the fact that the finding stands and that Mayor Ford acknowledged at the meeting of February 6 and 7, 2012, that he was wrong to have solicited the donations in the way that he had, the Integrity Commissioner will not be recommending any further action, either by way of sanction or remedial action to council," the report said.

The report did not discuss whether Ms. Leiper erred in making her recommendation to have the mayor pay back the funds. She declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday, saying she would reserve her remarks until next week's council meeting.

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Clayton Ruby, the lawyer who led the charge against the mayor, has said he'll seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. He has until late March to file an application.

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