This morning Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland convicted Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford on conflict of interest charges and declared his council seat “vacant”. His infraction? Helping to raise just over three thousand bucks for a high-school football team using City Hall stationary, then refusing to step back as Council voted on the matter. The decision takes effect two weeks from today, though Ford has stated that he’ll fight “tooth and nail” against the ruling.

Toronto Just Fired the Greatest Mayor of All Time Vice Magazine
Full Text of Justice Hackland’s Ruling National Post

A lot has been said about the comparatively “minor” offense, far less in scale and scope than crimes of the Montreal, Laval or London mayors recently, who weren’t tossed for their misdeeds. As Justice Hackland stated, this has as much to do with what he did as persistent ignorance and “willful blindness” of the law as well as a defense based on “a stubborn sense of entitlement” and a “dismissive and confrontational attitude”. “Pride cometh…”, I suppose.

While he wasn’t (caught) scheming with mob bosses, his actions could have come straight out of a textbook case. Using your position and institution’s status to further personal business dealings is corruption, and voting against your own punishment is the very definition of a conflict of interest. One need only look at the clusterfuck which is Montreal’s civic politics to see how even a few minor violations can entrench decades of mob rule. His Fordship may not have been quite as sly, but his disregard for the system which empowered him was just as evident.

Excuse me if I’m not exactly sympathetic. I may have a lot of tolerance for law-breakin’, but not from lawmakers. Ford had no trouble accepting the power and privilege granted him (and more), yet now he’s a victim when the law rules against him? It’s too easy to play the anarchist when your name is on the indictment, even when you spend the rest of your time as a chief magistrate.

With great power comes great responsibility. Everything the mayor of Toronto says or does carries that position with it, even something as insignificant as using one’s official letterhead to raise funds for a suburban high school football team. Imagine how you might feel as someone who has standing business with the city (permits, rezoning, charges etc) who received an official-looking letter suggesting you make a donation? Corruption works with a wink and a nod, not an in-depth, on-paper explanation.

Ford’s punishment went well beyond what others like him have seen so far, there’s little doubt of that. Whether that’s because of a conspiracy against him or simply because he responded to the charges like a jackass, we may never know. What’s important is that the judiciary is finally taking action on these cases. They didn’t with DiIanni and his illegal donations, they haven’t (yet) with London’s Mayor and his embezzled funds, and then there’s Harper and his robocalls. Nobody can pretend that reigning politicians in Canada get severe punishments. Unlike the Tour de France, Mayors and Prime Ministers generally get to keep their titles when cheating’s discovered. That has to change.

Weep not for Rob Ford – all his punishment means, whenever he should choose to accept it, is that he will be just like the rest of us.

Advertisements