Well, Friday was the annual “Ford Fest” held by our Toronto mayor. He’s apparently done this every year for the last decade or so: inviting people to his mother’s home in Etobicoke and partying over burgers and beer. The concept sort of reminded me of my “Wake Up Day” celebration, although his would be a bit more extravagant. When we were at Moody (in the mid 80s), some friends discovered an ad that talked about throwing a party for your “two hundred closest friends”. This being 2010, Rob goes one better and invites “thousands of his closest friends”.(Oshawa Ogre) Still, there’s something a bit, oh… I don’t know… what’s the word? Tacky? about using a “robocall” system to invite neighbours to a party. (National Post) Let’s just go with “impersonal”.
There is a Facebook page inviting members of the LGBT community to attend the event; I decided not to go. I figure that if he, as mayor, can’t take time out of his busy schedule for Pride (which every mayor has attended for two decades) then I’m too busy to attend his BBQ. I mean, it’s right up there on my list with eating at Chick-FilA.
Our illustrious mayor is in the news again… this time in a conflict of interest case. I’ll try to outline the case before I start to consider where it’s gone, and what the implications are. It’s actually well-described by a CBC article, but I’ll sum up some key points. Back in 2009 and 2010, then-councillor Ford was raising money for a personal charity. Unfortunately, he was doing this with the city’s money, and was told several times “to stop using council letterhead and city resources, including his assistant’s time, to solicit funds for his private football foundation.” (Toronto Star) Well, he didn’t stop, and eventually this caused significant problems.
The integrity commissioner wrote, “he “declared that he cannot be ‘bought’ and that people know that about him, particularly because of his wealth… Councillor Ford was not able to agree that such a request could be perceived as a use of influence . . .” Ford “appeared to genuinely find it difficult to understand how others could feel uncomfortable with his (solicitation) letters or how the fact of lobbyists donating to his personal cause, at his request and with his knowledge of the donations, could compromise the councillor-lobbyist relationship.” (Toronto Star)
Now, it’s probably just me. Let’s ignore my general difficulty with incredible arrogance, first of all. Beyond that: I have a another big thing about ethics… I have a problem with leadership lying and manipulating context so that we never really understand what’s happening in the political world. That happens all the time (and it bothers me all the time) but this is one step worse. I mean, this man has no sense of ethics… and revels in that fact. It’s a perfect example of 1 Cor 2:14, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” He doesn’t understand that there might be conflict in the situation, and because he doesn’t understand, he blindly goes ahead and does it anyway.
But that’s not why he was in court. That was just the beginning. He was told not to try to raise funds for his personal foundation using city resources; he did so anyway; and eventually was ordered by the council to pay $3,150: the amount that was raised by Mr. Ford misusing city property and time. He never paid it (although it would be insignificant next to his family fortune) and eventually it came back to council. They reconsidered the situation, and decided it was not necessary for Mr. Ford to pay back the money. It was an easy decision, and a majority approved.
The problem? Mr. Ford voted for himself not to have to pay back the money.
Now, is it just me or is this such a flagrant violation of “conflict of interest” rules that there should not even be a question? I don’t care about all the reasons he shouldn’t have had to pay back the money; I don’t care that the final vote was a majority and his vote essentially made no difference. The fact was: he was voting on a procedure in which he, himself, was to benefit. That is the definition of “conflict of interest”. What part about this am I missing?
If he wasn’t mayor, or didn’t have a personal fortune that allowed him to have an arrogance so he doesn’t have to care about any opinion but his own, there would be no question about the verdict. He violated he law. But just like when he was seen driving while talking on a cell phone in the city, the laws apparently don’t apply to everyone the same. Mr. Ford can hire a lawyer who can argue that he didn’t understand the law… although for the rest of us there’s something called “Ignorantia juris non excusat”: ignorance of the law is no excuse. Our mayor is pretty ignorant: I’d think in itself would be reason enough to impeach him.
We’ll see how the case comes out.