Okay, let’s calm down now that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been told by the divisional court that he can remain in the Mayor’s office until his conflict of interest case is appealed on the 7th of January. At least there will be some certainty until then as council considers next year’s budget.
Speaking of budgets, I got a call from Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion in the 680 newsroom asking to let her clear up some shoddy reporting that led those living in her city to believe their property taxes would be increasing by 7.8 per cent next year. ” Nonsense” said the Mayor who went on to explain that the total budget for next year would increase 7 per cent over last year but the property tax component would increase by no more than 3 per cent or less.
While I had her on the line I took the opportunity to ask for her take on the Rob Ford case. She balked, saying “I haven’t commented to date and I don’t want to comment,” then added that the inquiry who heard HER conflict of Interest case concluded that the Municipal conflict of interest act is badly in need of revision and that the Association of Municipalities has made the same case while asking the Province to fix it.
I’m not so sure the Act has to change as much as the cavalier attitude of Politicians do – including Mayors’ like McCallion and Rob Ford ( both of whom I know well and like very much ) who’ve been ensnared by it. The Act is written and designed to ensure that municipal politicians don’t speak to or vote in council on matters in which they could personally gain financially. It shouldn’t matter if the gain is as little as $1 or as much as $100,000,000, or that it is measured (as it was in Ford’s case ) by “funds questionably raised for his football foundation that he didn’t think he or his foundation should return. (It is also questionable weather the integrity commissioner had the authority to impose that order)
There are myriad situations in which a politician could gain from a decision by council. The Act is not designed to prevent or forbid that consequential outcome. The Act is designed to prevent the political “gainer” from having the kind of say or influence in council that he or she is expected to have on all matters except those that involve potential gain for themselves. What is so bad about that? How hard can it be to figure out and to comply? When in doubt, stay out!
Yes, the Ford case is arguable and his lawyers are doing just that stressing as his supporter’s website states correctly “Rob Ford gained nothing personally “and that” the city lost nothing.”
The Mayor’s brother Doug Ford expressed relief over the Judge’s decision to let him remain as Mayor until the appeal is heard. He acknowledge that to assume the process has been stressful ”is an understatement” and now that his brother the Mayor has been “hit by a sledge hammer,” he is likely to change and to handle things differently as he matures and grows as a leader.” Isn’t that all that is required?