Shooting The Messengers

March 27, 2015

What the fuck is up with city council?

Just days away from yet another sanctioned apology from Rob Ford by the Integrity Commissioner for yet another ethical lapse on his part while serving as mayor wtf– What for this time? The use of ethnic/racial slurs – and a lobbyist registrar’s report of improper lobbying of then Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, then conuncillor, Doug, by one of their family business’ clients, a couple freshman councillors are bringing a motion to next week’s council meeting that would diminish the oversight of all four accountability offices through amalgamation.

It’s as if, seeing the slime trail left behind by the Fords (and a few other councillors) from last term, the response is to lessen the ooze by checking the investigative process instead of changing the greasy behaviour.

What exactly these new councillors, motion mover, Stephen Holyday, and seconder, Justin Di Ciano have against the accountability officers is difficult to fathom. They’ve been in office for less than four months. Some sort of pre-emptive axe grinding? Who knows. metooBut it is another full frontal attack on the accountability offices that began at the last budget committee meeting with a Councillor Michelle Berardinetti walk on motion to reject all increased funding requests by the Ombudsman and Integrity Commissioner. A motion supported by Councillor Di Ciano and another rookie Etobicoke councillor, John Campbell (not to mention the budget chief himself, Gary Crawford).

Mayor John Tory managed to walk that one back ever so slightly, pushing a motion at the following council meeting to partially restore the funding request a slight fraction. A gesture which amounted to little more than seeing the Ombudsman, Fiona Crean, announce she would not be seeking reappointment, fearing the `divisiveness’ would do long term harm to the office itself. Good job, Creanie, is essentially how the mayor greeted that news, and then his Executive Committee passed a motion to keep future Ombudsman’s gigs to just one, 7 year term, replacing the current 2 term, 5 years each, the 2nd, renewable at council’s pleasure, thereby reducing the politicking of the appointment process to just a one-time thing. Probably pragmatic politics but for the absolute wrong reasons.

I mean, what reason is there to resist strengthening oversight of the operations at City Hall, both the public service and elected officials? There’s been no credible criticism of the job any of the accountability officers have done. Report after report from them has been accepted by city council and city staff, many recommendations implemented. pokeintheeyeThis has never been a question of competence or performance.

So, what then?

There is no good or satisfying answer to that. Various councillors, including one currently under criminal investigation for accepting $80,000 from a fundraiser back in 2013, have seen the accountability investigations as some sort of witch hunt. During the hyper-partisan years of the Ford Administration, the work done by the Ombudsman, Integrity Commissioner, Lobbyist Registrar became characterized as some sort of left-right issue, non-elected bodies trying to undermine the democratic will of the voters of Toronto. These weren’t misdeeds or missteps being committed, but acts running contrary to the sore losers on the left.

Such were dynamics of the day.

Yet these motions seem intent on dragging this past fractiousness forward, keeping the matter alive. The mayor, councillors Campbell, Di Ciano, Holyday had nothing to do with any of it. Now they seem to want to join the fray. (Matt Elliott has his usual excellent insight into the seemingly passive-aggressive role Mayor Tory’s playing in this sad melodrama.) suffocateIt’s not even clear whether the motion will be in order, if it contravenes the City of Toronto Act, which had established the accountability offices or would require changing that act.

With so much else that needs tending to in Toronto, we all know the list: infrastructure, affordable housing, transit, why are councillors wasting their time, as well as ours, and, undoubtedly, threatening to further dig a partisan divide, by attacking and diminishing the accountability offices?

We need to listen very carefully to each and every councillor who rises to speak in favour of this motion next week at city council. They must spell out clearly and concisely why they think folding 4 offices into 2, 4 offices which overlap only in the function of providing oversight, will help to increase transparency and public scrutiny of the job City Hall is doing. Because, right now, I can’t think of one compelling reason to do what councillors Holyday and Di Ciano are proposing to do. Not one.

Moreover, Mayor Tory needs to step up to the plate and lead the charge killing this thing. He is too back-roomed up, too chock full of potential conflicts of interest through his continued affiliation with the likes of Rogers, brooma senior staffer of his and former lobbyist already tsked tsked by the Registrar for a lobbying transgression back in 2012 and raising eyebrows in his current capacity for talking up a Toronto Library Board candidate for the chair, to be seen as anything other than unequivocal in his opposition to any potential weakening of the accountability offices. The mayor cannot shy away from this this time around. Otherwise, he will establish the tone at City Hall that oversight is negotiable.

dubiously submitted by Cityslikr


What Part Of Having A Mandate Don’t You Understand?

October 26, 2012

On a Thursday afternoon the mayor of the country’s largest city is out of the office, engaged in unofficial business, coaching football. It’s the second anniversary of his winning election. He’s spent much of the morning talking up his accomplishments that are all far less impressive than he or the Toronto Sun make them out to be. The rest of the day he’s had to fend off two new reports from two of Toronto’s Accountability Officers, suggesting that he’s (once again) violated council Code of Conduct as well as politically interfered with civic appointments process. There’s now a list to prove it.

Taking time from that busy schedule, Mayor Ford let it be known just what he thinks about Accountability Offices who are breathing down his neck.

“You don’t need a lobbyist register [sic], an ombudsman and an integrity commissioner. They have 20 people, they’re tripping over themselves. They’re trying to make themselves look busy. I’ve never voted in favour of it and never would.”

Then as if to prove he really hasn’t the slightest fucking clue about any stinkin’ Code of Conduct violation or why the Integrity Commissioner rang him up this time, he proceeds to quite possibly (question: are the Accountability Officers considered ‘staff’?) violate the Code of Conduct (Article XII) one more time for good measure.

“It’s all just political,” he tells reporters, referring to the Integrity Commissioner’s report while standing on the sidelines. “It’s just nonsense if you ask me.” Asked if he thought the report was politically driven, he agrees “absolutely”. The Ombudsman’s report too.

Article XII of the Code of Conduct requires members of Council to “be respectful of the role of staff to provide advice based on political neutrality and objectivity and without undue influence from any individual member or faction of the Council. Accordingly, no member shall maliciously or falsely injure the professional or ethical reputation of the prospects or practice of staff, and all members shall show respect for the professional capacities of staff.”

I guess it’s as easy to believe that the mayor hasn’t read the Code of Conduct as it is to imagine he just doesn’t understand it. Cold comfort either way. And let’s not forget that he’s spouting off about the political nature of the Integrity Commissioner while getting ready to coach a football game on a Thursday afternoon during the course of a normal working week. It’s almost picture perfect in irony. The mayor, taking yet another Thursday afternoon off from the job he’s being paid to do, views any and all criticism of his actions as nothing but political.

Why aren’t you at work, Mayor Ford?

Why are you being so political, asking me that question?

We can talk all night and into the weekend about the blatant hypocrisy of the mayor’s musing about axing the city’s Accountability Offices, having run on a platform of cleaning up City Hall and overseeing a transparent and.. ahem, ahem.. transparent administration. But it doesn’t really matter since it’s a non-starter. The Ombudsman and Integrity Commissioner are provincially mandated as part of the City of Toronto Act, another document I assume the mayor hasn’t read.

The huffing and puffing and pouting is simply an attempt to vilify the Accountability Officers and discredit in the court of public opinion any report that criticizes the mayor. That approach is simply more palatable to Team Ford than ever, ever admitting to any wrong doing. History has shown that they only do that under extreme duress and when there’s no other way to weasel out from accepting the responsibility of their words and/or actions.

Comments about getting rid the Integrity Commissioner, Ombudsman and Lobbyist Registrar (or anyone with any idea they disagree with – “Why does he still have a job?” Councillor Doug Ford said with his outside voice about the Medical Officer of Health on their radio show) have a slight Stalinist whiff. The former Soviet tyrant apparently stated that dealing with an opponent was easy. “Death solves all problems. No man, no problem.”

The mayor is suggesting we kill the positions that hold our municipally elected officials accountable.

Which is why even his most ardent supporters should be running for the hills on this one, for fear of getting coated with the grease from such a self-serving statement. Even the Deputy Mayor can see that.

“It almost seems that if there weren’t any Fords, you wouldn’t need any accountability officers at all,” said Councillor Doug Holyday. “You certainly wouldn’t need them to the extent that you have them, because half of what they do seems to be revolving around complaints made about the Fords.”

Exactly, Mr. Deputy Mayor. End stop. Let’s move on, shall we?

No, wait. What? No. No! Stop talking now!

“Well, that’s just the opposition’s way of trying to put pressure on Ford and knock us off our agenda.”

**sigh**

Look. (Awkward analogy alert!) Accountability is like pregnancy. You can’t be in favour of a little accountability.

To continue to defend the mayor by brushing off the damning reports as nothing more than cheap politics is to wrap yourself in an increasingly thick cape of tin foil. Sure, some of the complaints lodged might be politically motivated but to suggest the findings of the Ombudsman and Integrity Commissioner that come down unfavourably against Mayor Ford are politically driven is nothing more than twisted partisan logic. It is as reckless an attitude toward our democracy as the mayor’s seems to be.

As they say, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it must be a duck. The simplest explanation for why Mayor Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug, constantly find themselves in trouble with the Accountability Officers is because they’re doing something wrong. How be we just insist they start playing by the rules and if that’s not possible for them, let them live with the consequences.

frankly submitted by Cityslikr