A relevant message for all politicians

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 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.

     

Organizations: Canadian Press

Geographic location: Toronto, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • don
    November 29, 2012 - 05:25

    SUMMERSIDE RESIDENT. as we all know ghizzy and basil are above the law no one has the right to touch them as they own this island all the tax payers are is a bank. one day they will pay maybe not in our life time but they will pay on judgement day for treating people like garbage.what we need is an audit done by some one who is not connected to PEI.

  • don
    November 28, 2012 - 20:57

    on PEI the leaders does what they want when they want and NO one dare go against them or your life is hell. what we need is a police force that is willing to do there job and not be powerless against power.

  • karma
    November 28, 2012 - 13:00

    'Toronto the Good'! How silly does hogtown really look in all this, when you consider what's happening elsewhere, even PEI. No wonder folks characterize that city's society leaders as a bunch of latte-sipping Rosedale elites. Ford didn't fit their image of themselves and he was from the burbs, so had to go. Imagine! All over a $3,000 donation to his charity football team. I guess every city has it's Brighton 400 and don't dare take them on. They'll get you eventually.

  • Summerside Resident
    November 28, 2012 - 11:06

    Mayor Basil Stewart should take heed to this message, NOONE is above the law as stated by Justice Hackland, all Mayors and persons in positions of trust must abide by rules related to Conflict of Interest and Breach of Trust. Mayors and Deputy Mayors of each City and Town in Canada are elected by the people to properly manage taxpayers money. I question the actions of Mayor Stewart and Deputy Mayor MacDougall with their handling of this Concert fiasco and to date no accountability to past CAO and Director of Financial Services Malcolm Millar, both these individuals were persons in positions of trust and protection of taxpayers money, and lets not forget Mayor Stewart is our Chief Magistrate who is responsible for ALL transactions withint he City. Again, where is our Forensic Audit which will deliver the transparency and accountability all the Citizens were promised during the last election. Come on Councilors Mundy, Holman, Costa and Steele, everyone knows what you promised and we are still waiting for you to deliver. Another ecotion is less than two years away, so do the right thing, follow through with your promises during your platforms or enjoy your first and last terms.

  • mej
    November 28, 2012 - 09:19

    FYI MacKenzie probably has a lot more "tory" friends than Liberal, and Peter McQuad was not a deputy, but even closer to Premier Binns at the time he was handed money, so your points there are probably moot.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    November 28, 2012 - 09:16

    Why the RCMP is sitting on its hands and practically doing nothing re the corruption in our governmental systems is beyond me. We need some prosecutors who have no party affiliations or loyalties to go after and clean up this patronage system of governing. But where are you going to find lawyers that are not part of this corrupt system? A wink and a nod is a common occurrence.Doctors, lawyers, and politicians all seem to belong to the same corrupt clubs. They police themselves, how convenient. That's right folks, the laws they write don't pertain to them as they feel they are above the same laws that you and I must adhere to. There is no justice, it is all an illusion.

    • ruthanne
      December 28, 2012 - 15:04

      Bill...you nailed it. There is no justice here.

  • wheres my comments
    November 28, 2012 - 08:34

    where are my comments going???

  • Thats the way we do it down here, no conflict
    November 28, 2012 - 08:22

    Toronto is worlds away from PEI on Conflict of Interest. Islanders watched a Deputy Minister hand out millions of dollars to party faithful, friends, family and even Himself. No conflict here????? Now Brooke MacMillan is the CEO of the Liquor Board, best job in PEI. David MacKenzie got a free jet for the weekend and then renamed the Confederation Centre, the Homburg Theatre. No Conflict here now Mackenzie is Deputy Minister of Tourism where they hand out contracts to friends. Vote Liberal and support our Dear Leader. thanks eh? Rob McEachern

    • maybe...
      November 28, 2012 - 11:53

      But we do have a Conflict of Interest Commissioner here on PEI (search the provincial gov't website)- he should be looking into the PNP, etc..