Tag Archives: rob ford

Mandatory Minimum Accidentally Applied to Powerful White Man

Many political observers in the Canadian province of Ontario are calling for a change to the law after a mandatory minimum penalty was accidentally applied to a powerful white man.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s seat has been declared vacant by a judge after Ford was found to have violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which also contains the harsh requirement that he lose his job.

“It just doesn’t seem right,” said area man Scott Johnston, who noted that he was more comfortable with mandatory minimums being used for laws typically prosecuted against poor people, black people, and generally “people who, I don’t know, aren’t like me?”

Frank Rashton, political science professor at the University of Toronto, said that enforcing the MCIA sets a dangerous precedent for other laws meant to hold political leaders to account. “I mean, what’s next,” Rashton asked, “we start enforcing election laws too?”

Pointing to a number of examples where elected officials have admitted breaking election laws in order to gain power, as well as ongoing cases where political parties are accused of engaging in systemic voter suppression, Rashton said “expecting politicians to be accountable under the law” would “[open] up a whole new can of worms.”

“I don’t think we’ve seriously considered the implications of going down that road,” he said.

Others argued that the real problem is not the law itself, but that in this particular case there weren’t enough loop holes designed to be exploited by powerful people. Columnist Sarah Simmer, who called the decision “Conrad Blackian*,” said that while it’s true enforcing other similar laws would be dangerous, it’s unlikely to create a rush on the courts since most of those laws already have built-in exceptions. “Look at Ontario,” she said. “A minister was set to be held in contempt by the legislature, but the premier was thankfully able to step in and stop it.”

Simmer said it would be dangerous to simply get rid of the MCIA’s penalties, because they’re “important for the appearance of accountability.” It would be better to instead ensure the penalties are never applied, she said.

When asked, outgoing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty disagreed with Simmer’s interpretation. “We’ve been very clear. Using power to avoid accountability is only wrong when Conservatives do it. In the case of Rob Ford, it would not be appropriate.”

McGuinty also said that since municipalities are the responsibility of the province it would have been helpful if the legislature were sitting right now in order to respond to concerns about the MCIA, as well as questions regarding how the MCIA relates to municipal codes of conduct, before adding “hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.”

Chris Tindal is on Twitter.

* The author and publisher of this post would like to make it exceedingly clear that they don’t believe Conrad Black has ever done anything wrong ever and that that Simmer person was totally out of line, even for a fictional person employing parody.

The one option left in Don Bosco’s playbook

When things go wrong, those with the least power usually suffer the most. Football players at the bottom of a pileup have the most weight pressing down on them, and can’t get up unless others do so first.

This holds true with the numerous scandals involving football coach and occasional mayor Rob Ford’s inability to keep his professional and volunteer responsibilities separate. Most recently, Ford and police together requested that a special TTC bus be sent to pick up the mayor’s football team after a game ended early. The fallout has affected the many parties involved to varying degrees.

The players, high school students with the least power of anyone involved, have taken a lot of heat. When one player bragged on Twitter that the team had benefited from their own private TTC bus because “our coach is the mayor,” a Vigilante Rapid Response Team sent him some nasty messages. That’s nothing, however, compared to what they’ve had to endure from their coach. Ford has taken numerous opportunities to disparage the players and their families, saying that they don’t have supportive parents or families (of course they do), that they are difficult to control (and that only he can control them), that the state of leadership within the black community is so pathetically lacking that no one has done more for black youth than this white part-time coach.

It’s hard to see what the school, Don Bosco, is accused of having done wrong either. Yet the school board has received so many angry phone calls that they’re considering reimbursing the TTC for the cost of the bus they never asked for in the first place. The board has more power than its students, but less than those who actually ordered the bus.

The TTC is also taking all sorts of abuse and doing everything it can to set the record straight. TTC CEO Andy Byford, already faced with the challenge of trying to mend his organization’s damaged reputation, has gone so far as to publicly scold the mayor by saying that he shouldn’t have called him for what Byford considers to be a personal matter and that he should not do so again. (His frustration is understandable; all the TTC did was respond to an urgent police request. They have no choice but to take such requests seriously.)

Those who instigated this whole mess and continue to hold the most power are saying very little. The police will not explain with any clarity what justified making the “urgent” request that resulted in two buses being diverted during rush hour, leaving riders stranded in the rain. The mayor will not explain why he treated Byford like a glorified taxi dispatcher. Neither will explain why their versions of events contradict those of the school board, which maintains there was no apparent need for special treatment. After all, who’s going to do anything about it? The school doesn’t have authority over the mayor of Toronto, nor can they easily accuse the police of lying about how things went down.

But even those with less power are not powerless. (After all, at the bottom of a pileup, one of Schrödinger’s players is holding the football.) There is an obvious source of these never ending headaches, and a solution. One man, a volunteer, has done a lot of good work, but is now causing more trouble than he’s worth. Every organization that depends on volunteers knows that as difficult as it is, sometimes you just have to say goodbye. It’s time to call that play.

Don Bosco can’t fire the mayor. But they can fire the coach.

Rob Ford’s behavior does matter, and it diminishes us all

When Rob Ford was accused of being drunk and belligerent at a Leafs game and asking a stranger if he wanted his wife to “get raped and shot,” he lied and said he wasn’t even at the game. When he was asked by the Toronto Sun if U.S. police had charged him with possession of marijuana, he lied by forcefully and repeatedly denying it. When the CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes made an admittedly-offside attempt to interview him in his driveway, he lied multiple times, saying it was dark out, his daughter was with him, and that the team from the CBC ran at him yelling “we’ve got you Rob Ford, we got you,” none of which is true according to video evidence.

We have not yet seen video evidence of Ford’s encounter with Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale (some security footage is apparently being reviewed UPDATE: Doug Ford says the video will not be released), so for now we’re left only with their two very different versions of events. Ford’s long history of dishonesty, combined with the fact that Dale is an award-winning journalist whose very profession is to document and tell the truth, has lead many to conclude with a reasonable amount of confidence that Dale’s version of events—in which the reporter never left public property nor came close to entering the mayor’s backyard when Ford ran at him, shouting with his fist cocked, and forced him to drop his phone and voice recorder—is the more accurate one. (Add to this that Ford appears to corroborate significant pieces of Dale’s account, but does not provide an explanation for why Dale would yell for help and drop his phone if he didn’t fear for his safety.)

The mayor then waited two hours before contacting a friendly media outlet (I use this phrase confidently, since Newstalk 1010 provides him with a weekly show) to claim that he had caught a Toronto Star reporter trespassing on his property and taking photos of his family. (There is no evidence that’s true, and Ford now admits he never saw Dale come closer than “maybe five meters” from his fence.) That delay, meaning that television cameras didn’t arrive until after dark (no doubt everyone watching the evening news pictured Dale lurking in the backyard after sundown, when in fact he was on public land while it was still light out) is seen by some as a deliberate attempt to distort the truth in a way that undermines the credibility of the Star.

Once Dale’s version of events was published to the Star’s website, even those who believed Dale started to criticize and mock him. Suggesting he had no right to be doing his job (reporting on a story that Ford wants to buy a piece of public land he alternatively says is required either to enhance his home’s security or build a larger play area for his children) on public property in daylight is only upstaged in offensiveness by the pack of people, most of them men and many of them journalists, questioning Dale’s manliness for being frightened when physically threatened and robbed by an agitated man twice his size.

Now, on World Press Freedom day, the mayor is threatening a complete media boycott unless Daniel Dale is fired from his job of reporting on city hall.

There is a temptation to lament that this is what we’re talking about instead of “real issues,” including the “real” story that the mayor is trying to buy a piece of a public park to increase the size of his property. But there’s often more than one issue simultaneously worthy of our attention, and the issue of the mayor’s character is significant and increasingly problematic. How can anyone achieve “journalistic balance” and report on the mayor when a history of blatant and intentional deceit is compounded with threats of physical violence (I am not prepared to define a cocked fist as anything else) towards a reporter?

Years ago, when asked why he didn’t tell the truth about being at the Leafs game, Ford said it was because he was “embarrassed.” He should be deeply embarrassed by last night’s events and his reaction to them as well, but it goes beyond that. We elect leaders to represent the best of us. When Rob Ford charged Daniel Dale, he did so as our mayor. We’re all diminished when this is the kind of leadership we have to look to, and we deserve better.