You’ll not be reading much about Rob Ford here again

This is probably the last time you’ll read about Rob Ford in this paper. That’s not because we’re boycotting him. It’s because he’s no longer a player in the future of our city.

In the early days, when Ford was reciting his mantra about the “gravy train” under a mayor who was so unaware of how the city works that he just succumbed to the leadership of bureaucrats, Ford seemed to know his stuff.

Maybe he really did. But it doesn’t matter. His stuff is stuffing.

He has been shown to breach the code of ethics we must demand of a mayor by actively promoting his private business using city staff and city facilities. He even tried to get the city to purchase from one of his major customers.

That’s just wrong and Rob Ford has to know it. Even if he doesn’t know it, so what?

We can’t have politicians promoting their own businesses using their positions with the city to enhance deals.

The city is a laughing stock insofar as our governance is concerned. The drunkenness, the flagrant drug use, the scandalous misbehaviour. The sleazing around with criminals. There’s nothing about this crackpot guy that says he ever deserves another chance at public office.

We have no reason to trust Rob Ford and we have no reason to feel any obligation to him.

If his brother Doug, a city councillor, has participated in Rob’s transgression of promoting the family business in violation of our code of ethics, he also must be retired to private life.

Council has very little leeway in dealing with politicians’ misconduct. The province has a surprising lack of both will and ability to deal with these matters. The public should expect Queens Park to deal with miscreant city politicians in a fair and defined manner, not let things go on hold until the next election.

See Comment below

One comment

  1. Your editorial in the August issue of The Bulletin (“You’ll not be reading much about Rob Ford here again”) was excellent, as far as it went. But your statement “Council has very little leeway in dealing with politicians’ misconduct” is one I do not agree with and which lets the members of City Council off far too lightly.
    I’m not sure how much The Bulletin readers know about the City of Toronto Code of Conduct, which applies to all members of City Council, including the mayor, none of whom has any basis for claiming ignorance. The following statements, written without any sort of qualification or limitation, appear in that Code:
    “…the public is entitled to expect the highest standards of conduct from the members that it elects to local government. In turn, adherence to these standards will protect and maintain the City of Toronto’s reputation and integrity.”
    “The key statements of principle that underline the Code of Conduct are as follows:

    Members of Council are expected to perform their duties in office and arrange their private affairs in a manner that promotes public confidence and will bear close public scrutiny”.
    My bet is that many people would say these are quite clear directives, and that Rob Ford has not just broken them, he has shattered them. So, if he has violated behavioural norms stated in the Code of Conduct, why has the Code not been used to bring this unspeakable politician to heel?
    One part of the answer lies in a legal opinion concerning the text quoted above, an opinion which was obtained by the previous Integrity Commissioner. That legal opinion, or more precisely the willingness of all involved to accept and follow that opinion, removes any teeth that these statements might have. How does it do that? By saying that the stated expectations on conduct are just aspirational, are statements of ideals, and are therefore not susceptible of being either transgressed or enforced. And how does it arrive at that conclusion? By saying that this is the essence of what the word “underline” means in the statement “The key statements of principle that underline the Code of Conduct are as follows”. Why does it do that? That’s hard to say, because no rationale seems to be documented anywhere. One supposes, perhaps mistakenly, that there is some basis for this opinion, that it rests on more than just some group of lawyers’ view of the moment. But a central judgment, and one requiring neither legal training nor a stratospheric IQ to make, is that from a common sense point of view, this sleight of hand on the meaning of the word “underline” is simply absurd, not least because it means that principles, which are described as “key”, become optional in all except a conveniently narrow sense. What kind of “principles” are these, I wonder?
    A second part of the answer lies in the penalties that are available through the Code of Conduct. These are that a miscreant politician (a) must apologise, or (b) can be reprimanded, or (c) can have his or her pay docked by up to three months. It’s true that these penalties are specified in the City of Toronto Act and are not under the direct control of Council, but it’s well past time that City Council began agitating to have the province update that act.
    So, due to a combination of verbal quibbling that defies all common sense, and the threat of penalties so light that they might as well not exist, as long as Toronto City politicians don’t violate provincial or federal statutes, they can behave pretty much as they like in public, and with impunity. This sounds ridiculous, but we can thank Rob Ford for demonstrating beyond any doubt that it is indeed the case.
    For comparison, look at any respectable Code of Conduct or Code of Ethics in any decent corporation. An employee of such a corporation who behaved as Rob Ford has done would be dismissed with cause in a heartbeat, would have zero hope that an appeal would even be considered, would likely be unemployable from then onward, and might be in prison.
    So, there we have it. A nice, convenient, double standard; one set of rules for elected local politicians, and a different harsher set for the rest of us.
    The scandal here is no longer Rob Ford’s behaviour. The real scandal is that he is still mayor. What his behaviour has shown, however, in writing so large it cannot be ignored, is that the citizens of Toronto need a means to protect themselves and their institutions from rogue politicians of all stripes. There is a means to do this effectively, and that is the Code of Conduct. Currently, it is in an emasculated condition for reasons about which one can only speculate. The Code of Conduct can be rescued. But to do this, the outrageous double standard that has been read into it must be expunged, the weasel loopholes removed, clearly stated obligatory behavioural norms defined wherever these might be needed, and penalties made available to deal with transgressions of the stated norms. These penalties need to be fair, cover the full range of offences, be fitting responses to those offences rather than just raps on the knuckles, provide a basis for effective deterrence, and as necessary for extreme cases, they need to make available a clean and permanent corrective.
    Anyone thinking that what we face is a temporary current problem, one that will go away, should think again. Another Ford type could come along at any time, and he or she might be even worse. In my view, a full public airing of this situation would be of great benefit.
    Let in a little sunshine.
    Keith Weaver (