Ford is breaking all the rules—but is it political swagger or a worrisome pattern?

Ford is breaking all the rules—but is it political swagger or a worrisome pattern?

Mayor Rob Ford (Image: toronto.ca) 

Like any newly elected politician, Rob Ford is trying to make the most of his honeymoon period. In the early months of the administration, Torontonians who were not in Ford’s camp resigned themselves to the fact that the mayor was going to push through much of his agenda—mostly because it didn’t seem like anyone was willing to stop him (let’s not forget Maria Augimeri’s suggestion that “people are selling their votes, and selling them cheap”). This week, however, saw three examples of Ford and his close allies bending the rules to get what they want. Here, we look at a pattern that is either evidence of Ford’s no-nonsense political strut or of his unwillingness to play by the same rules as everyone else.

The pattern started on Wednesday, with the Globe and Mail reporting that candidate Ford borrowed heavily from his family business to fund his campaign for mayor. Corporations are allowed to lend, but not donate, money to municipal elections. The Globe’s reporting raises the question of whether interest-free loans from a family business constitute “loans” or “donations,” especially given the number of purchases the Ford campaign made from Deco Labels. What was the line between the Ford family business and the Rob Ford for Mayor campaign? According to Ford spokesperson Adrienne Batra, there is no problem. She told the Globe, “The campaign acted in accordance with the rules. Suggesting otherwise is simply nonsense.”

The second instance of the pattern is the accusation made this week that Mike Del Grande acted illegally when he shut down a budget meeting in East York back in January. As a mayoral candidate, Rob Ford railed against in camera meetings, implying that all sorts of corruption was going on when the doors are closed. Fast-forward to 2011, and Ford’s hand-picked budget chief is declaring in camera huddles all on his own.

Finally, there’s the news today—again from the Globe—that the mayor ignored the city’s hiring practices by putting former councillor and GO Transit board member Gordon Chong in charge of building the Sheppard subway line. Nobody interviewed by the Globe thinks that Chong is incompetent or unsuitable for the job, but the hiring rules are in place because there are always several qualified candidates, and the city should hire the best one for the best price. As councillor, Rob Ford used to bemoan the city’s untendered contracts, famously bashing Transit City for choosing Bombardier over what he claimed was the cheaper LRT bid by Siemens.

Hypocrisy—always an easy charge to make in politics—is not actually the point we’re making here. Rob Ford has said that this city gets into trouble and costs taxpayers money when it bends or breaks the rules to do what it wants. He was right. And though he was elected as a maverick who operates on his own terms, this axiom applies just as much under Ford as it did under David Miller.

• Ford’s unique approach to campaign financing: Borrow from family firm [Globe and Mail]
• Del Grande Shut Down Meeting Illegally [Spacing Toronto]
• Ford team fills $100,000-a-year job without candidate search [Globe and Mail]