Investigating the viewpoints
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford seems set to soon be ex-Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Due to a ruling by Judge Charles Hackland on Ford’s breaching of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA), Ford will be forced from office on December 10.
Initially, I was firmly on one side of the argument. However, after further reflection, there are several sides to this, and all have relevance. To begin, there’s the side of the ruling. Ford did something wrong. Back in March of 2010 when he was still a city councillor, Ford tried to raise funds for his private foundation that helps underprivileged kids play football. There was a slight issue with his admirable act though: Ford made use of official city letterhead. Fresh envelopes bearing gold seals and the City of Toronto’s logo along with Ford’s official title were sent out to solicit funds for his private, non-work-related foundation. $3,150 towards the foundation was the result of his efforts. As bad as his abuse of city resources was though, the real trouble was yet to come. In August of the same year, Ford both discussed and voted on the incident at a city council meeting, despite being cautioned that he was possibly creating a conflict of interest. In March of 2012, a complaint arose about Ford’s actions, suggesting that he was in violation of the MCIA. Violating the MCIA requires the perpetrator to be deposed, and thus, Ford’s on his way out.
Ford’s a very public figure. He seems to crave the spotlight and keeps the public entertained with his endless outlandish antics. Examples of these indiscretions include: being caught in possession of marijuana, being drunk at a hockey game and creating a scene (which he amusingly denied, then admitted and apologized for), reading and talking on a cell phone while driving, taking two public transit buses off their routes (and dropping off their passengers) to pick up his high school football team, and—my favourite—delivering this quote about cyclists: “What I compare bike lanes to is swimming with the sharks. Sooner or later you’re going to get bitten…Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks, not for people on bikes. My heart bleeds for them when I hear someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.” Ford knew full well he was in a conflict of interest when he voted against his having to pay back the money he raised through city resources. What he was likely unaware of, however, was the penalty for doing so. And he got nailed for it. Good riddance.
But wait! Don’t crucify the man yet. Keep in mind that he’s essentially being expelled for collecting $3,150 for charity. Yes, the means with which he achieved this goal were wrong, but has he really done anything horrible? Politicians have done far worse and managed to stay in office. Remember Gordon Campbell’s DUI? I don’t recall him being expelled from office. Or even Kyle Rae, a name Ford himself brought up, and his $12,000 retirement bash using campaign funds? Ford’s wrongdoing by comparison—and even without—was exceptionally tame.
Along with this, it should be noted that judges dismiss cases all the time. If there’s a lack of evidence or it’s simply not a case for the courts, judges can throw it out. Ford got removed for, relatively speaking, pocket change. Does the city really care about a few envelopes going out on their dime? After Ford checked up with the donors, it was even revealed that many didn’t want repayment. No harm, no foul. As for those who say that, regardless of the damage or lack thereof, an obvious offence was committed, keep in mind that there are many other openly illegal activities that go unpunished. A good example of this is 420: people openly smoke pot in a public place in full view of officers of the law. It’s illegal to smoke pot, yet no one gets arrested. Why pick and choose which harmless crimes we turn a blind eye to?
The last view to consider here is that of the city and its people. While Ford is appealing the ruling, it’s unlikely that he’ll win. Therefore, there are two directions that can be taken from here. Either a new mayor is appointed, or a by-election is run. Neither is a good choice. Appointing a mayor is a gross disregard for democracy. It’s bad enough that a judge decided to oust a man who received over 90,000 more votes than his nearest rival; choosing a new candidate for the job without consulting the public is even worse. And on the other hand, a by-election will cost approximately $7 million. So the choices are either to do away with democracy or unnecessarily burn through a large sum of money that could be put to much better use.
Everything is wrong in this case. Ford is guilty of a breach of ethics, Judge Hackland punished a man for committing a minor offence, and the people of Toronto are going to get the short end of the stick one way or another. All over charity. What’s the world coming to?