By PATRICK HUNTER
By now you should have had your fill of this man who is our mayor, Rob Ford.
Ford keeps hurtling from issue to issue and most of it has nothing to do with running the City of Toronto – making sure the potholes are filled in, and the sewers work. Instead, we are subjected to the ongoing character failures and problems of a leader who has proven more than once that he is not ready for this prime time role.
It is an accepted principle that as humans we are prone to errors. While it is a fact, it is a flaw that we should do our best to avoid. Of course, it is also a fact that there are some errors which, on an arbitrary spectrum, are more easily forgivable than others. We expect a higher standard of behaviour particularly from those who are in a position of influence. Failure to meet those standards should have, and often do, consequences.
Given all the revelations over the past couple of weeks concerning Mayor Ford, one would think that he would have resigned. Given all the distractions the revelations of his conduct have caused, it would be the one gracious thing to do so that the business of City Hall is not hampered and matters up for discussion can proceed. I guess it would be fair to say that it would be too much to expect.
The most frustrating aspect of this whole matter is that there is seemingly nothing anyone can do to relieve him of his duties and office until he decides to act or until the next election. As I have previously discussed, there are no recall provisions within the City of Toronto Act, or other legislation that can force him out, unless he has been convicted of a crime.
Some time ago, in this space, we looked at the possibility of amending the relevant legislation to include a provision for recall. That is to say, if the voters have misgivings about an elected official they would have an opportunity to vote to replace him or her before his or her term is complete.
British Columbia is the one province which provides this option of recall. It is a complex undertaking and requires a lot of patience and hard work to get to a point of consideration by the overseeing election officials who could reject the application.
So, given this state of affairs, and the powerlessness of the citizens to act to wrestle back control of the city, it is worth exploring some options to ensure that this loophole is plugged.
In the United States, there are mid-term elections. These are the non-presidential national elections that take place for some member of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Those mid-term elections act like a performance evaluation of the incumbent president as well as the party in control of the respective Houses of Congress. Midway through his first term, President Barack Obama received one of those rebukes as the Democratic Party lost control of the House of Representatives.
The key ingredient here is that it is an overall governing performance. The electorate may determine that the policies are detrimental to the health of the economy or society in general and through its vote sends that message. Individual elected officials and their performance and integrity take on a different standard of assessment. If the voters in a particular ward or constituency are dissatisfied or repulsed by the character and behaviour of their representative, then they should be afforded the ability to have that person removed before the next scheduled election.
We have seen elected officials who have been caught in, shall we say, a compromising situation, take that honourable step of removing themselves from the trust of their constituency. It has become the expected course of action for most. It is one of those things that the defiled official does to protect his or her family and retain whatever modicum of dignity they can salvage.
It should have become obvious by now that this inability to remove Mayor Ford is unacceptable. I suspect that those who wrote the legislation for Toronto did not foresee the possibility that anyone would be caught up in a situation in which they would not step away of their own accord. That has to be remedied.
One possible option would be to allow a riding, or in this case, the city, to be able to cast a mid-term performance review ballot if there are very serious personal issues that would warrant it. In many ways, it would be similar to the recall ballot, but without some of the complexities involved. The question is, do you leave it at that, just a review, or does it have the ultimate effect of vacating the position?
If Mayor Ford is so concerned about how taxpayers’ money is spent, then he should step down without any pay.