Saba Ahmad is a Litigator working on environmental, administrative and commercial matters in Toronto. Learn more at www.sabaahmad.com
The Court ruled Rob Ford didn’t have an interest in the vote to forgive his $3,150 debt. Since there was no interest, there could be no “conflict of interest.”
But Rob Ford didn’t know that at the time. When he voted, he thought he had to pay $3,150. Everyone in the room thought he had to pay $3,150. And nobody thought Rob Ford’s debt was void – or even voidable.
Contrary to the Court’s view, being on the hook for that sum of money was likely to influence Ford’s opinion about the motion. The Court even agreed that $3,150 was significant. And it also found that Ford was willfully blind to the conflicts rules. There was no inadvertence here, nor any “error in judgment”. The Mayor failed his obligations to heed warnings and conduct due diligence.
So how is it possible that he broke no conflict of interest rules?
The Court held the debt never existed in the first place, so everything that happened from the time of Council’s penalty onwards, was a nullity. The Court is of the view that by voiding the debt, it cleansed Ford of any breaches of conflicts rules.
It cannot be that a post-hoc voiding of the penalty erases the wrong Ford committed. He voted on a matter of financial interest to him. Even if he believed the fine was voidable – which he didn’t – voiding it wouldn’t have come cheap.
We have conflicts rules not just to prevent improprieties – but the appearance of impropriety as well. How can people have faith in our institutions when personal stakes are allowed to guide decision making?
Ford should not have voted on the motion and it was a breach of the rules that he did. The Court, in my opinion, got it wrong.