Celebrating the Toronto Argonauts Grey Cup could not take the pall off Justice Charles Hackland’s unprecedented decision that found Mayor Rob Ford in a conflict of interest and ordered that he vacate his job.
Between proclaiming Toronto Argos’ Day in the city and watching his own collegiate team play in the Metro Bowl, Ford stepped up to a podium at City Hall to offer an apology for the behaviour that got him in trouble in the first place and to say that he respects the court’s decision.
This was a different tone from his initial reaction of blaming his troubles on council’s left-wing members who he claims have been trying to oust him. The Fordian view: He wasn’t in trouble because he refused to follow the rules, but because others don’t like him and his way of doing things.
His apology notwithstanding, Ford’s legal representatives are moving forward to ask for a stay of the court’s decision.
If the court declines that request, Ford will be out of office on December 11, since he was given 14 days from the date of Hackland’s decision to demit office. Furthermore, he would not, according the City’s own legal counsel, be eligible to run in a by-election
The judge did allow Ford to run again in future and that is a big win for him since he could have been forbidden from running for seven years according to penalties attached to the charge.
So what is this all about? Ford made a point of soliciting donations from lobbyists for his football foundation. He did so on City Council letterhead. When he was advised that he broke Council rules and that remediation would mean him repaying the over $3000 he collected, Ford refused repeatedly.
Then he stood up in Council to defend his actions and participated in the vote against his repaying the money. Hence the conflict of interest charge.
Ford has believed from the beginning that because he won the mayoralty with a huge mandate, he was untouchable. He played by his own rules and that was his downfall.
An outsider during his 10 years as councillor for Etobicoke North, he has been an iconoclast throughout his two-year run as mayor.
In this current case, two rights actually ended up being a wrong. Ford was trying to do good by raising funds for a football program he is very emotionally invested in and clearly enjoys. Raising funds to allow youth to play sports could hardly be interpreted as a bad thing. So it’s not the what; it’s the how. In trying to do something good, Ford at the same time did something unprincipled.
Those who are into the details of this case and the minutiae of City Council regulations understand that point. But those determined to vote for Ford if and when he runs again see him as being treated unfairly, and you could chart that line along the urban/suburban demarcations of this city.
There is no doubt that his supporters will question why the judge could not have given a break to this guy who was just trying to help kids. Watch for that ‘doing good for kids’ argument to play strongly among those who see this populist politician as being very much like them and a strong voice for what they want at City Council – lower taxes and an end to what they perceive as wasteful spending.
Ford made a strong point of wanting to clear away the entitlement behavior at City Hall and wasteful and corrupt spending practices. Who wouldn’t like that? But he apparently meant questionable practices by everyone but himself. The conflict of interest charge brought against him by a taxpayer and taken to court by high profile lawyer Clayton Ruby was really the tip of the iceberg when we look at the laundry list of actions tied to Ford as he allowed his attitude of entitlement to steer his every move.
Ford’s lawyers may keep him in office beyond the December 11 demit date, but if all that does is embolden him to continue with his campaign of distractions and prioritizing football coaching over city business then we are in for an even more fractious time on council, especially during the run up to the 2014 municipal elections.