It is perhaps somewhat surprising that we’ve taken so long to get to this post, but it just seemed so obvious that I was reluctant to seem like we’re just adding to the pile-on. I refer, of course, to the ongoing legal troubles of His Worship, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Even those who make a point of avoiding politics would find it impossible to avoid the circus that has seemingly followed Mayor Ford since before he even won the mayoralty in 2010. If, somehow, you have managed to somehow avoid Ford’s foibles in 2012, local blog the Torontoist more or less summed it up in its 2012 Heroes and Villains feature. Given the extent of the Mayor’s legal issues, what with at least three major ones (the campaign audit, libel trial, and, of course, the MCI trial), it would be churlish to not spend a bit of time discussing his foibles.
Although there seems to be evidence that a new, more bipartisan, Ford might be (finally) learning from his troubles, his refusal to broker compromise up to this point has been oddly and compellingly impressive. While it’s tempting to say he’s the Teflon mayor, it can also be argued that the litany of questionable behaviour has simply piled up to the extent that’s it is impossible to see the proverbial forest from the trees. Even if he survives the appeal of his ouster for violations of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, he still has the niggling worry of the release of audit for alleged violation of campaign spending rules (for which one penalty is also removal from office or even jail). At least he managed to get his $6 million libel trial thrown out.
The text of Mr. Justice Hackland’s decision in Magder v. Ford is fascinating as it highlights the extent to which the fiasco was entirely avoidable. Para. 58 contains arguably the crux of the argument against the Mayor:
In view of the respondent’s leadership role in ensuring integrity in municipal government, it is difficult to accept an error in judgment defence based essentially on a stubborn sense of entitlement (concerning his football foundation) and a dismissive and confrontational attitude to the Integrity Commissioner and the Code of Conduct. In my opinion, the respondent’s actions were characterized by ignorance of the law and a lack of diligence in securing professional advice, amounting to wilful blindness.
Whatever your thoughts are on Mayor Ford, he has certainly ensured that Toronto’s municipal politics are anything but boring. So much so that the world has been made to notice. It has also certainly proven to be catnip for those interested in the heretofore sleepy field of Canadian municipal law. Despite being a busy man, for that, Mayor Ford, we thank you.