The outcome was inevitable and predictable. Former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was found in contravention of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. Whether one is a supporter of Ford or not, Justice Charles Hackland's decision reinforces the importance of two issues -- governance and trust. Ford failed on both these counts. One cannot use municipal stationary to solicit private donations -- whether they be for a football team or anything else.
The cause or beneficiaries of the donations are irrelevant. Using government stationery implies that the communication is official and may inappropriately carry credibility that is not there. Ford refused to acknowledge that this action was inappropriate and, further, voted on a motion involving himself, which was also a conflict of interest. Only recently did Ford apologize, an action which should have occurred at the outset.
Fortunately, Toronto does not have is a situation that mirrors that in Quebec. We do not have a politician who committed fraud. But Ford did exercise very poor judgment and handling of the issue.
One of the fundamental tenets of good governance is to ensure that those in charge respect the institution and stakeholders they serve and adhere to rules and laws. Lawyer Clayton Ruby stated (see the video) that "it is important for the courts to assert that no one is above the law, Rob Ford included." The building of trust is forged over time and over repeated examples of good governance along with honesty, transparency and integrity. When a leader fails in any of these elements, reaction is strong and swift. Our leaders serve as beacons for the rest of society. We look to them, evaluate their actions and reactions, and use that as a bell-weather for our societal values. Our governance structures are a means by which we demonstrate this.
What went wrong in this scenario?
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Sorry this #fordcourt verdict is taking so long. The judge was coaching football this morning and will get around to it soon.
Rob Ford got kicked out of mayors office? WOWWWWW!! Hes hopping on that gravy train right back home.
rip rob ford. stung by a hoard of vicious gravy wasps.
Now I await all Rob Ford memes. #topoli #comeatmebro
Oh, my. Rob Ford has been removed from his office as mayor. Toronto politics just got rather interesting. http://t.co/Ltpmkac6
Rob Ford needs new business cards asap!
Terrifying thought: Governor of the Bank of Canada job is open. Rob Ford is looking for a job. ARRGGHHH! #Cdnpoli
BREAKING: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford found guilty of violating conflict of interest act, removed from office http://t.co/o0BBzIgp #topoli
#topoli Imagine if #toronto invested as much time and attention to transit financing as we spend distracted by @TOMayorFord latest antics.
Its a sad day for hard working comedians throughout Toronto. It appears Rob Ford's been booted from office (pending appeal) #RobFord #TOpoli
No more coach/mayor Ford! #topoli
How does it work in TO when a mayor finishes early? Is there a bielection or will the deputy step up as acting mayor? #fordcourt #TOpoli
Very exciting day in Toronto- and it has nothing to do with football. Let's fix this and make sure it never happens again. #TOpoli
Hey #Toronto, #RobFord might be out of office now so get yourselves educated about the issues and make informed choices. #topoli #onpoli
Who's going to drive the gravy train in the parade :(. #TOpoli #RobFord
Watching the Rob Ford circus is more fun, but Carney leaving Canada for England is bigger and more important news #topoli
Oh boy - we're gonna see Jabba the Mayor kick it into serious victim mode now! #RobFord #TOpoli
Also, Rob Ford is trending worldwide. (Let's hope just this once and never again.) #TOpoli
If Rob Ford and Dalton McGuinty just traded positions, Toronto would have subways all over the place. #topoli #onpoli
I wonder if Rob Ford will appeal the decision or leave quietly with his last shred of dignity. #TOpoli
On the otherhand Doug Holyday will make an excellent Interim Mayor for #toronto #topoli #tocouncil
Let's hope Ford can and does run again soon. Then Toronto can turf his partisan, ignorant ass in the most clearly democratic manner. #TOPoli
Have You Driven a Ford (out of office) Lately? #topoli #fordcourt
1. Rob Ford is a leader who cares less about building trust and more about winning. In his world, building bridges and coalitions to work towards improving the effectiveness of the city was not a priority. His arrogance alienated many and created disharmony and divisiveness. Justice Hackland stated Ford had a "dismissive and confrontational attitude to the Integrity Commissioner," a "stubborn sense of entitlement," and his actions amounted to "willful blindness."
2. There are politicians who have brought their animosity to the political process to demonize and vilify one another. Discussions on important municipal issues are protracted, ineffective and obstructionist, as the sides gear up to fight. If this kind of behaviour were to take place on a corporate board or among senior management, the business would collapse. Shareholders would not allow it.
Politicians are supposed to set the bar for responsible governance, integrity and leadership. Their responsibility is to govern, and govern effectively through compromise and reaching across the aisle, not proroguing legislatures, or by being distracted or dysfunctional. Many politicians in Canada and the US have failed badly and citizens are the losers. Just on the municipal level, three mayors of major cities in Canada are now out of office in as many weeks.
3. The lack of trust and job fulfillment has spilled into the public sphere with important issues set aside while camps and individuals wage personal wars. The infighting, posturing and protracted bickering have wasted time and money. Important issues continue to be ignored. The politicians and the political process have lost their credibility and integrity. Citizens look at this and wonder why they bother to vote.
The situation in Toronto (but other cities as well) has provided a glaring example of what happens in our democratic process. It's not good enough that citizens have the right to vote every four years. It is what happens in between elections that is troubling. No private or public sector company would ever tolerate this level of ineffectiveness and inefficiency. Why do we allow it in our political sector? Politicians should expect as much from themselves as they do from others.
Follow Deborah Nixon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/deborahnixon