Martin Regg Cohn: John Tory goes up in flames as Doug Ford hides in a smokescreen

In Toronto’s story of two scandals, Doug Ford gained the jackpot.

All because of John Tory, who misplaced his job.

If not for the disgraced mayor, whose dramatic resignation has mesmerized the media, the premier may need dominated the entrance pages over his personal reckless transgression. So goes the information cycle.

When Tory confessed to his personal infidelity late Friday, he spared Ford having to atone for his personal impropriety anytime quickly. The mayor dedicated political hara-kiri whereas the premier dodged a bullet.

Everybody has now heard of Tory’s extramarital affair. However the soiled particulars of Ford entering into mattress with wealthy builders might by no means absolutely sink in.

The premier insists his fingers are clear, his physique is pure and his soul is incorruptible. However his behaviour is contemptible.

Ford needs us to see him as a loyal and dutiful father. He innocently invited prosperous land builders who’re “household pals” to a fancy-pants stag-and-doe get together for his daughter and son-in-law — an occasion that ordinarily raises cash to cowl the prices of a marriage and cake.

Ford additionally needs us to shut our eyes (as he has) to his fiduciary obligation as premier. He needs us to consider he’s fiercely unbiased of pleasant land builders whose fingerprints are all around the Greenbelt — a treasure trove that his government is controversially slicing and dicing — and that he’d by no means improperly reduce the cake, so to talk.

But there all of them have been, seeing and being seen in his yard on an excellent September day: a Who’s Who of builders whose lands stand to learn from the federal government’s controversial choice to interrupt Ford’s public promise to depart the Greenbelt untouched, in accordance with Saturday’s Toronto Star.

Ford says he is aware of nothing about any items from his friends. All we all know is that his authorities is actually gift-wrapping components of the Greenbelt for these fortunate sufficient to be growing beforehand undevelopable land now value many tens of millions of {dollars}.

Journalists, like firefighters, function on the speculation that the place there’s smoke there’s fireplace. This time, Tory’s mayoralty went up in flames whereas Ford put up a smokescreen.

When the media made inquiries about this peculiar stag-and-doe get together, the premier’s workplace moved into harm management mode with a pre-emptive strike: They took the main points — their particulars and their model of occasions — to the legislature’s unbiased integrity commissioner for an opinion.

Within the opinion of the commissioner, J. David Wake, there was no violation of ethics guidelines that bind MPPs — which has the impact of placing a damper on the story. By no means thoughts that this belated opinion was sought so many months after the actual fact, that it’s based mostly on untested data provided by Ford insisting he had no information of any items given to his daughter and son-in-law.

A media report with incontrovertible details will usually generate an official investigation that gathers steam; conveniently for Ford, and inconveniently for the media, the commissioner’s opinion gums up the story earlier than it might probably acquire a lot traction. To not point out the salaciousness of the mayor’s misconduct overshadowing the sleaziness of the premier’s behaviour.

However even when the backyard get together story withers on the vine, it should nonetheless color Ford’s profession. Whatever the formal opinion from the integrity commissioner, the casual verdict within the courtroom of public opinion shall be damning — additional reinforcing the view that Ford can neither be trusted to maintain his phrase on the Greenbelt nor relied upon to maintain his distance from builders who personal components of stated Greenbelt.

Confronted with these allegations, Ford’s public testimony was pure sanctimony: “I do know the distinction between what we should always and shouldn’t do,” the premier huffed with customary hubris.

In different phrases, Belief me — and never simply me: “I went to the integrity commissioner and he cleared it 1,000 per cent — not 999 — 1,000 per cent.”

Maybe Ford has persuaded himself that he’s past reproach. However the place have been the political workers with the savvy to save lots of the grandiose premier from himself, by talking reality to energy?

It’s axiomatic in politics and justice that one mustn’t solely keep away from a battle of curiosity however the notion of a battle. As an inheritor to his household’s fortune, Ford assuredly sees himself as being above the mundane and miserly vulnerabilities of mere mortals when consorting with the richest of the wealthy.

Fortuitously, the earlier Liberal authorities bowed to public stress (and a few columns) by banning company donations to political events that might bend politicians out of practice — limiting the potential for builders to “purchase” affect. (Whereas that prohibition can’t cease the workers and household of builders from “bundling” their private political donations in massive numbers, which may add as much as greater cash, it’s nonetheless rooster feed in comparison with the $12-million budgets of election campaigns.)

However who would have thought that Ford can be silly sufficient to hobnob with excessive rollers in his own residence whereas the Greenbelt is in play? Irrespective of how a lot Ford blinds himself to that actuality — or that notion — it’s not a superb look.

Whether or not or not one believes Ford was compromised by this doubtful stag and doe get together, few will query that he has additional sullied his credibility. By dismissing the doubters, he solely reminds individuals how out of contact a premier can grow to be after too a few years in energy.

Similar to the outgoing mayor, thanks very a lot.

Martin Regg Cohn is a Toronto-based columnist specializing in Ontario politics and worldwide affairs for the Star. Observe him on Twitter: @reggcohn


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