Whose Integrity Is In Question?

July 8, 2013

Another year, another Ford Fest with the inaugural east side version in Scarborough last Friday, fordfestfollowed, in all likelihood, by a round of complaints lodged with the city’s Integrity Commissioner. A budding Toronto tradition.

And once more we will divide into opposing camps, with the mayor’s supporters insisting he’s doing nothing wrong using city resources, on city property to promote what is essentially his own personal cause: re-election in 2014. Everybody does it, they’ll yell, pointing to councillors’ newsletters and sponsoring of local teams as proof. Bussin’s Bluejays! At least, Mayor Ford uses his own money for the Ford Fest rather than the taxpayers’, as if there are no ethical concerns with that.

They will be directly opposed by those who see all sorts of glaring problems with the mayor’s actions with Ford Fest. History, of course, will be on their side as the mayor has run afoul of the Integrity Commissioner since his early days as a councillor. wristslappedConflict of Interest is pretty much his middle name and no court has cleared him of it, only council’s ability to sanction him fully for his transgressions.

A third group will rear its head up, somewhere between the two. They will think it very likely the mayor is breaking rules in hosting Ford Fest but worry that bringing it to the Integrity Commissioner only serves as more ammunition for him to use in his out to get me defence. A nuisance complaint by a bunch of sore losers simply trying to overturn the mandate bestowed at the ballot box. Advantage, Mayor Ford.

Of the three groups, the latter strikes me as the most troubling.

It varies little from the most ardent of the mayor’s supporters in using election outcomes as the ultimate moral compass. shrug1Ends justifying the means, and all that. While not an official sanction of rule-bending, it certainly gives it a pass under the guise of the greater good and the long game.

In suggesting we simply shrug off the mayor’s iffy practices for fear that calling him on them actually increases his popularity, we just get in the goo with him and muddy the waters of ethics and morality. He bends the rules because he gets away with doing so. At this point, it’s almost as if he’s just daring you to go to the Integrity Commissioner.

Failing to do so only endorses the view that the office is toothless and without the power to enforce the rules it was established to oversee. It enables flagrant disregard of any attempt to keep a level playing field for all members of the council and to reduce the influence on city business by unelected outside entities. turnablindeyeAllowing the administration to continue conducting its dubious practices in order to not enflame the mayor’s base is as big an affront to democratic oversight as assuming the rules don’t apply to you is.

It’s pretty straight forward.

If Mayor Ford used the resources of his office and the city to host a gathering that had nothing to do with city business, that’s a potential conflict. If Ford Fest was used to campaign for the mayor’s re-election, if a database of potential voters was collected there, that seems like a clear violation of the city’s campaign laws.

It’s bad enough that his most ardent supporters don’t see it that way. It’s inexcusable for the rest of us to shrug it off as part of the game.

mea culpaly submitted by Cityslikr