'It's just inappropriate': Toronto councillor seen on video driving during city's budget vote
TORONTO -- A city council meeting to debate the now-approved 2021 budget went a bit off course on Thursday after one councillor was spotted behind the wheel of a car during a vote.
In a recording of the nine-hour meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto-Danforth Coun. Paula Fletcher could be seen at one point on video driving as councillors were voting.
"Councillor Fletcher? speaker Frances Nunziata asked. "You're driving and you're voting on your phone."
Another councillor was heard shouting, "You can't vote while you are driving a motor-vehicle. It's not lawful."
Fletcher, clearly annoyed by the comments, shot back, "I'm not holding the phone. You are looking at me. Look, my hands are on the wheel, my eyes are straight ahead."
"It's just inappropriate," Nunziata responded.
An assistant, the Ward 14 councillor said, had been holding up her phone as she drove.
"Ok I can leave the meeting. If Coun. Thompson didn't want every vote recorded, I'd be fine," Fletcher added. "Bye."
The exchange prompted Coun. Shelley Carroll to break out into laughter before Fletcher left the meeting.
Council later approved both the $13.98 billion operating budget and $44.7 billion 10-year capital budget.
"I hate to say this, I love them all and I love the whole place, but it doesn't take much to derail things sometimes," Mayor John Tory said during an interview with CP24 on Friday morning.
"She wasn't breaking any rules. She had somebody in the car that was holding the phone who was masked. She was not driving and texting or anything like that because someone else was holding the phone. And there is no rule against somebody being in a car to vote."
Tory said ultimately he decided to request that councillors move past it and continue on with the meeting.
"I just finally intervened after this back-and-forth was going on for some time and said, 'Look there are no rules being broken here, can we just move on,'" the mayor said.
"People love to debate and discuss these things, and it can be amusing but it can also be a waste of time."