One sign that a political scandal is careening beyond the control of even the savviest of comms machines?
Sitting down to write about it and you don’t even know where to start.
Good god. There’s blood everywhere! I can’t even tell where it’s coming from.
That’s not true. We know. We all know.
We just can’t prove it yet. Yet.
Yesterday’s first installment of the provincial Integrity Commissioner’s investigation into the Ford government’s Great Greenbelt Land Swipe dropped, and it painted an ugly, ugly picture, adding to the already fetid gallery depicted three weeks ago by the Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk. (If you want to really dive into the greasy, grimy details, check out the Narwhal piece from Emma McIntosh, Fatima Syed and Denise Balkissoon.) In short, Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, breached the Integrity Act by ‘burying his head in the sand’ and allowing his chief of staff to run amok in what the Toronto Star called a ‘chaotic and almost reckless process’.
“At best what we see here is gross incompetence,” opposition leader Marit Stiles said, “at worst it’s corruption and colluding with developers.”
A resigning and/or firing offence, you’d think. But nope. Not yet. Not in Ford World.
Just like the Premier in the face of the damning Auditor-General’s report, the minister responded to the Integrity Commissioner’s report with an empty ‘the buck stops with me’ mea culpa and then simply carried on, business as usual. Sure, mistakes were made. The process flawed. I’ll tell you what. We’ll return a few acres back into the Greenbelt. That makes us square, yeah?
We all know where this is going. A slow slog up toward the head of the rotting fish. Doug Ford is the developers’ premier. He made that clear from the very start. In his own words.
While the Integrity Commissioner proved generous to the premier, suggesting the 2022 mandate letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was ‘misinterpreted’ by the minister, and accepting the word of Ford and his staff of not remembering certain meetings and phone calls/texts with Ryan Amato, Clark’s former chief of staff who the premier’s office appointed to that position (!!!!), it bends mightily credulity. I mean, come on.
We get Doug Ford.
What’s Steve Clark’s end game here?
Perhaps if he’d resigned along with his chief of staff in the face of the Auditor-General’s report and gone quiet, he could’ve salvaged something of his political career. Perhaps. He didn’t, choosing instead to stand with the premier, speak for the premier, while throwing his staffer under the bus in the hopes of that being the only sacrifice they’d have to make. Now, in the… a-hem, a-hem… wake of the Integrity Commissioner’s report that points the finger of malfeasance directly at him, offering some qualified excuses, busy with other files (including issuing questionable MZOs), a sick relative and a general aversion to the project of land grabbing of the Greenbelt, Clark’s refusal to step down is even more head-scratching and speaks to a severe lack of any sort of ethical principles.
Why is he steadfast in his dedication to go down with the ship? Especially, if as the Integrity Commissioner suggested, he was never keen to carry out the orders and was worried about the political fallout of doing so. Why wouldn’t you bail at the first sign of trouble with a big ol’ I Told You So? It’s one thing to get your hands dirty if you believe in the dirty work you’re doing. Why would you continue to wallow in the muck if your heart’s not in the filth?
I was wrong but consequences are for suckers not Ministers of the Crown and former mayors of Brockville.
No one believes Steve Clark’s actually concerned about building houses, do they? Otherwise, he would’ve listened to the recommendations of the government’s own Housing Affordability Task Force.
So what then?
If there are good, logical reasons for him hanging on, desperately clinging to his perch, I’m at a loss.
All the wrong reasons are more obvious, predictable even.
Maybe Steve Clark is just trying to tough it out, wait for the other shoes to drop, there are going to be other shoes, to still be standing in place when the blame gets properly dropped on the doorstep of the real culprit in all this, the actual villain of this sordid story.
Like every good soldier attempting to renounce responsibility, he’ll be standing among the ruins and claim to have just been following orders.