A year after Ford’s near-disaster, city councillors still fear conflicts of interest

A year after Ford’s near-disaster, city councillors still fear conflicts of interest

(Image: Perks: Gord Perks/Facebook; Layton: Mike Layton/Facebook) (Image: Perks: Gord Perks/Facebook; Layton: Mike Layton/Facebook)
 

It’s a sure bet that Rob Ford would like his first term to be remembered for its fiscal achievements. Instead, it will almost definitely be remembered for crack. But there is another, lesser-explored aspect of Ford’s likely legacy: a new culture of fear, among municipal politicians, of being sued for conflict-of-interest violations.

Ford, of course, was sued and very nearly removed from office over a relatively minor breach of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which mandates that politicians be fired if they speak or vote on any matter in which they have a “pecuniary interest.” On Friday, according to the Sun, councillors Mike Layton and Gord Perks both publicly acknowledged possible breaches of the MCIA that are even more minor than Ford’s alleged violation. In what appears to have been part of an attempt to ward off legal consequences, both men copped to having voted on Toronto’s water budget, despite the fact that their spouses both work for an organization that gets a fee from the city to assist with a water-quality program related to Toronto’s beaches.

It’s hard to imagine either councillor being accused of corruption. Nothing either of them could do to the water budget would have much in the way of benefits for their families. Even so, the law is strict, and Toronto’s activist community knows, thanks to Rob Ford and the people who prosecuted him, that it can be wielded against politicians. It may only be a matter of time before the next lawsuit, and next time the defendant could be someone a little more universally admired.