The Double Life Of Mayor Rob Ford

I had a sleepless night last, I must confess. At the centre of my disquiet was a brewing disagreement in my head with our (virtual) friend over at Ford For Toronto, Matt Elliott. I don’t think we’ve ever disagreed on anything and it wasn’t lying easily upon my sleepy head.

Yesterday Elliott linked to a Spacing article written by John Lorinc examining Mayor Ford’s campaign expenses that were submitted last week, stating: I’m no fan of the mayor, but I still don’t see much newsworthy re: Ford, Election Expenses & Deco Labels. But as I read through Mr. Lorinc’s piece, I kept thinking, not newsworthy? How not newsworthy?

Is it because it’s all old news, the mayor’s complicated relationship with his family business, Deco Labels and Tags, and his role as former city councillor and now mayor? A business he’s still actively involved with, apparently? A complicated relationship that for years plagued many of his council colleagues as Ford made his name crusading against office expenses which he rarely-to-never used, and instead paid for such things out of his pocket. This put whatever expenses then Councillor Ford’s actually made out of public view. Say what you want about the bunny suits and taxi fares that made such a big splash in the press, not to mention provided heavy cannon fodder for Rob Ford’s mayoral campaign against waste and corruption at City Hall, but at least those things became public knowledge. How Councillor Ford funded his office endured no such transparency.

That is not to say he was doing anything illegal or unethical. Council set the Auditor-General and Integrity Commissioner upon Ford back in 2007 to investigate his lack of office expense claims. Their report found Ford (and Councillor Doug Holyday) were not adhering to council policy in terms of reporting expenses but suggested no punishment. So there it remained, with Ford able to continue his battle against wasteful councillor spending right into the mayor’s office while keeping his own financial dealings in the murky waters of non-compliance.

At the heart of the issue is Mayor Ford’s use of his family business while acting as a public servant. We know Deco does work  for the city and has been before Ford was first elected to council back in 2000. The amount seems insignificant and distanced enough from the mayor and his now councillor brother, Doug, to be only mildly unsettling. There is the whole sole sourcing contract in one aspect of the deal that seems more than reasonable and only rankles because the mayor has often railed about sole sourcing regardless that it sometimes is the best alternative.

More disturbing, however, is the mayor’s use of his company to supply his office with materials and services that he doesn’t claim as official expenses. Even if he does actually pay out from his own pocket, he’s paying a company that he co-owns and operates with his family. Doesn’t this represent an unfair advantage for the mayor over his council colleagues who don’t have access to a family firm? Does he get a family discount? If so, wouldn’t that constitute some sort of gift or donation from the private sector? These are questions we aren’t able to fully answer because the mayor as a councillor didn’t claim expenses from the city, so didn’t have to publicly declare where and how he spent his money. Not exactly the transparency he pledged to deliver if elected.

The quagmire further widened and deepened when Mayor Ford went public with his expenses for his successful mayoral run last year, disturbing on a number of levels. Firstly, the mayor blew $400,000 past the $1.3 million spending cap with seemingly no penalty for doing so. Why bother having a limit if candidates can simply ignore it by just assuming the overages? That doesn’t really level the financial playing field.

Secondly, the mayor got elected on a platform of vowing to bring sound fiscal management to City Hall but went into debt doing so. To the tune of anywhere between $640,000-$800,000 before post-election fundraising cleared out most of it. Isn’t that a little unnerving? Or do we just chalk it up to making a personal sacrifice for the common good? Like another fiscal conservative, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, who is now asking council to pay his legal fees for a case he brought against the city back in 2008 in order to stop it… wait for it, wait for it… paying the legal fees of two other councillors. Initially, Holyday said he was footing the bill but when the city pushed back and strung the case out with an appeal process, well, it all became a little too rich for the deputy mayor’s tastes. Rest assured, good people of Toronto, we’re still saving money in the long run as Councillor Holyday will have finally put this nonsense of paying councillors’ legal fees to bed, once and for all. After, of course, we pay his legal fees.

Even if legitimate, the optics of this are horrible. Just like Kyle Rae’s $12,000 retirement party. Completely legitimate and above board but arguably the image the mayor and all the fiscal conservatives rode into power on.

And then there’s the $150,000 in costs to Rob Ford’s mayoral campaign charged by again… wait for it… wait for it… Deco Labels and Tags. That’s in the neighbourhood of 10% of the campaign costs going to Rob Ford’s company. Legitimate and above board but stinking to high heaven.

Think about it for a moment. Rob Ford pays $150,000 to his own company for election related expenses. Expenses that are then (hopefully) covered by donations from the public. Donations that are then subsidized up to 75% by the city. So indirectly, 75% or so of the $150,000 Deco Labels and Tags made from the Ford campaign is paid by taxpayers. Is that what passes for respect in the Ford era?

The mayor cannot continue to hold the moral high ground on fiscal matters of this city, to scream Gravy Train every time he spots what he deems to be wasteful spending, while he actively participates in the family business that does business with this city, that profits from its business with the city. Regardless of the amount involved or the arms length distance he might have from the deal as mayor. It reeks of hypocrisy and a conflict of interest. The mayor is either a public servant or a private business man. If those two worlds overlap as they do with the city of Toronto and Deco Labels and Tags, he has to decide which one he’s going to be.

It’s time to shit or get off the pot, Mr. Mayor.

decidedly submitted by Cityslikr

5 thoughts on “The Double Life Of Mayor Rob Ford

  1. Wow, your actually loosing sleep over something that actually benefits taxpayers as opposed to costing them ie: bunny suit rentals????

    If a baker became mayor & decided to eat at his own bakery for free, and the other councillors decided to order steak dinners & charge the taxpayers for their lavish meal……are you saying that the baker-councillor is putting the spendthrift councillors at a disadvantage bcos they don’t own bakeries? Are you for real??? You have way to much time on your hands. You mentality is typical of the Miller years. No wonder our province/city is in such a mess.

    Mayor Ford has spent more out of pocket monies to save taxpayers, than his deco contract with the city generates!

    I think you should take a sleeping pill, wake up fresh & put your thoughts/energy to actually contribute to solving ways of bloated red tape, bureaucracy, bloated gov’t & hydro sunshine list & expensive hydro, health care etc., and councillors procrastination to problem solving ideas! 🙂

    There is work to be done, roll up your sleeves & pitch in, instead of lazy theorizing!

    • Dear Missy,

      It seems there’s a degree of misunderstanding about what we wrote and what you read. We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke take fully responsibility for that. Bad writing on our part rather than a lack of comprehension on yours.

      What concerns us is the lack of transparency and level playing field. As a councillor, Rob Ford fought hard to have his colleagues’ expenses posted online for everyone to see and so you and the media could go around screeching about bunny suit rentals as proof positive of out of control spending. But since Mr. Ford claims no expenses, he doesn’t have to show how he spends money, and as a councillor he does spend money. Stationary, printing, you know, normal office expenses.

      Where does that money come from? If indeed it comes straight out of his pocket, and he doesn’t write such things off as business expenses when, say, he files his income tax and therefore just passes the spending on to another level of taxpayer, if he just pays his own way as an elected official out of the goodness of his heart, why don’t we insist every councillor do that? It would save us a lot of money. Let’s just set a minimum income level everyone must have before we allow them to run for office. We would save a lot of money with no possible downside whatsoever.

      Or at least insist that they have some business or trade that they can utilize as councillor to save us money. Like your baker, for example. Simple Simon the Pieman, serving the public while dining on his own dime. If he can eat without reaching into the public purse, why can’t the other councillors? (A nice rhetorical flourish, by the way. Your baker-councillor eating basic baked goods while the other layabout councillors eat their lavish steak meals. Well done.) Yes, as a matter of fact I am saying that the baker-councillor puts other councillors at a disadvantage if they don’t own bakeries as long as he insists they not be able to expense food because he doesn’t.

      Which is exactly what Mayor Ford did while he was a councillor. By not ever charging expenses even for the most basic office items and services, items and services that, coincidentally the company he owned produced, he disingenuously established a false standard by which other councillors were measured. You chose to be outraged at bunny suit rentals. I chose to be concerned about a fundamental lack of transparency in our elected officials.

  2. It is hypocracy & a conflict of interest! The funny thing is his campaign is still over $60 K in the hole despite the promise of fiscal management.
    Holyday is not a man of his word because he said he was going to pay for legal fees. Until Rust D’Eye started charging more and in fact is in one of your linked articles defending the fact that the City will do more business with Ford’s Deco because there are 3 bids. Except in the case where there was a source source TTC contract for tags from Deco?! That’s OK.

  3. Sorry to say, but your rants, writings and everything anti-Ford is getting old and tiresome. Wake me during the next mayoral election.

    ps. I think the city will still be here when you wake me up.

  4. One day I will buy you a beer and we will lose the parenthetical from “(virtual) friend.”

    I guess my thing with this story in particular is that, yeah, I’d like to see Ford disassociate himself from Deco Labels while he’s in office. He should be way too busy to be involved in running the business while serving as the mayor of the largest city in Canada. Plus someone who holds himself to such a high standard (as you point out) for fiscal responsibility and transparency and respect-for-taxpayers should take every possible step to ensure there’s not even the possibility of an allusion to corruption, double dipping, kickbacks, etc.

    So I think we agree up to that point. The optics are bad and he’ll be hypocritical if he continues on this course.

    Beyond that, though, and this is what inspired my ‘not newsworthy’ comment, I don’t think any rules have been broken. There might be some small procedural stuff (maybe a conflict of interest should have been declared at certain meetings) you could pin to him, but to me it comes off a bit like grasping for straws.

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