One more in a series of blunders by the mayor of Toronto… “blunder” being the most neutral word I can think of…
I’m no expert in getting business cards printed; I either get mine done through work or my personal ones I get printed on the various specials that can be found on the Internet. I can be pretty cheap. However, if I did want to get a lot of them printed, I would happily settle for a deal such as I found in a few seconds search through google (BusinessCardPrintingDirect.com). Just as an example, we should consider that right now things are in a bit of a financial crunch in Canada, especially in Toronto. Belts are being tightened all over the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) so lets go with the less expensive price of 500 cards for $12.50.
Our mayor, Rob Ford, wanted to have 20,600 printed for himself and his staff (Toronto Star): at that the cost above it would be roughly… $515.00. So why did he bill the city over $1600.00 for the cards he had made? The standard city contract in this regard is about 3.5¢per card, though they can go as low as 1.6 per card when using the “in-house” city’s printing office (Toronto Star). But apparently “the mayor prefers something fancier than the standard blue-and-white slip. Mr. Ford’s card features a City of Toronto logo stamped in gold-coloured foil and a city ward map on the back.” (Globe and Mail)
Must be nice. Particularly on the tax-payers dime. Personally, I’d rather have a few more books in my library than Mr. Ford’s gilded cards. But I know the Ford family doesn’t agree.
According to Metro News, “Ford’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, defended the outsourcing as recently as Sunday, saying critics were ‘picking small hairs’ when they should focus on money the mayor saved the city by getting councillors to reduce their office budgets and his own.” Ah yes, Mr. Ford has saved us some money. But let me get this straight: it’s all right for Mayor Ford to demand that every department in the city cut their spending by 10%: resulting in cuts to police services (Globe and Mail) and libraries being open fewer hours (though not closed: G-Corner): but Mr. Ford wants his own special cards to be paid for by the city? He’s got to be kidding.
Not only that, but Mr. Ford went to his own family’s printing business for the work.
He apparently got quotes from two rival printing companies, and they were more expensive. (I suppose he forgot the in-house city printer?) I think his family’s company might have had a wee bit of inside information when they underbid for that work. Hardly a surprise at all. I can hardly think of a situation that screams “conflict of interest” any louder.
Am I the only one who is appalled that we have no laws in our city to deal with such conflicts in our city? Apparently the city’s “Code of Conduct” has no actual punishment associated with this kind of thing. (Now Toronto) So conflicts like this can be (and are) recognized, and effectively swept under the carpet. According to municipal law expert Stephen D’Agostino, “The theory is that if you’re found to be doing things that are morally questionable or unpopular, then the voters will deal with that at election time.” So we have to wait another two years to express our displeasure with our mayor? Voters are known to have particularly short memories.
After all, it has been resolved. According to Adrienne Batra, Mr. Fords press secretary: “As he always has done in the past, the mayor will pay for the expenses on his own.” (Toronto Sun) As he has always done in the past. Whatever. The charges were made to the city in March: it is now November and there is no sign of a check to pay for the costs. (I hope he’s including a half-year of interest when he pays it back.) I think it would be more accurate to say: “As he has always done when he’s been found in a compromising situation,” he’s paying his way out of it.
“Under the city’s expense policy, councillors can choose an outside printer. There doesn’t appear to be an explicit rule against directing the business to a firm in which they have an interest.” (Metro News) Is that tongue-in-cheek or what? It has to be stated that councillors are to avoid situations where their interests are conflicted? I would think that would be automatic. No wonder there’s so much corruption rumoured to be in the city. Mr. Ford ran on a ticket promising to clean it up: but he’s apparently just learning to take part.
As Canadian Business magazine points out, “the amounts are fairly small”. It’s only $1500, after all. It’s a “pocket sized” conflict of interest, not a big one. And that’s exactly what I would expect from my experience with many American businessmen: I had hoped for a bit more from Canadians. My understanding of ethics and morality is that the size doesn’t mater. If it’s a conflict of interest, it’s a conflict of interest. It’s wrong. What is it that I’m always being told to watch out for by my more-conservative brethren? “The slippery slope”. Get away with something small, and what’s to prevent it becoming something big? In Mr. Ford’s case, I’d say he’s well on the way.