The Rob Ford saga playing out in Toronto municipal politics may be a local drama, but it carries a universal message for all politicians: no one is above the rules, and if you break them, you should pay the consequences. In Ford's case, the consequences involve being forced out of office.
In a blunt ruling this week, Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland said Ford violated the municipality's conflict of interest law by participating in a council vote that dealt with a penalty he was ordered to pay after being found in violation of council's code of conduct. That breach involved soliciting donations to his private football foundation using official City of Toronto letterhead. The legal action was initiated by a businessman who argued the mayor violated conflict of interest rules when he took part in the vote. According to a story by The Canadian Press, the judge's 24-page decision criticized Ford for "willful blindness" that couldn't be attributed to a slip-up. "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'," Hackland said in his ruling.
Ford has said he'll fight the decision and that's his right, but this week's ruling does underscore the fact that conflict of interest rules are to be taken seriously by everyone in public life.
The line between the public and the private life of an elected official can be blurred easily. Politicians are people, after all, and in many cases, they are where they are, in part, because of their interest in and commitment to their communities and provinces. It makes sense that there be ground rules to ensure their various activities don't conflict and that taxpayer interests are protected. Mayor Ford is obviously committed to his foundation. That's laudable, but he should have refrained from using city letterhead to solicit funds for it and he shouldn't have taken part in a vote over repayment of the money solicited.
Whether the punishment of the court - being ousted from office - is too harsh is certainly debatable. Nevertheless, the rebuke in general serves as a clear reminder to public officials everywhere that conflict of interest rules are to be taken seriously.
More passing lanes, please
It's disappointing that a left-turn lane off Route 2 onto Blooming Point road will have to wait until next spring, but this news only draws attention to what that road really needs: more passing lanes.
Tracadie-Hillsborough park MLA Buck Watts raised the matter in the legislature last week, but was told the project has been delayed until next spring. No doubt those asking for the lane weren't happy with this news, and who could blame them? As Watts said, they're concerned about what they consider a "dangerous" section of highway.
But of greater concern is the fact Route 2 east of Charlottetown, because of its twists and turns, affords motorists very few opportunities to pass. What this usually means, particularly during the high-traffic summer months, is that there are long lineups of impatient and sometimes impulsive drivers. If there were more passing lanes on Route 2 east, and signs were posted alerting motorists of passing opportunities ahead, motorists would be less likely to take unnecessary risks.