Will the real Rob Ford please stand up?
Finding someone you can trust about financial decisions is not always easy.
If someone shows they can’t manage their own money well, does that mean that we shouldn’t trust them with someone else’s money? That’s the kind of question raised by Mayor Rob Ford, as he says he wants to put the city’s finances in line. His record on a personal level leaves a lot to be desired.
Mayor Ford got elected with a mayoralty campaign that has raised a blizzard of important financial questions.
His election expenses have been reviewed by the compliance audit committee, established under the Municipal Elections Act, and it decided a full audit should be done of those expenses. But Mayor Ford’s lawyer has appealed that decision on the need for an audit, and the appeal will not be heard by the court until next April.
Which means we do not have all the answers.
But we do know a few things, and they don’t provide much comfort that Rob Ford is the guy to trust with the money. The mayor’s campaign cost about $1.7 million, an amount way over what he was able to raise in contributions.
In fact, the campaign ran a deficit of about $800,000.
To help out candidates Rob Ford and Rocco Rossi, former premiers Mike Harris and David Peterson, along with radio host John Tory, held a Harmony Dinner in January, where they sold tickets and raised $1 million, of which about $60,000 went to pay off the Rossi deficit and $775,000 to the Rob Ford campaign.
That almost cleared off the mayor’s campaign deficit.
Can you trust someone who decides to spend so much more money than he can raise trying to get elected to public office? And there are questions of detail about expenditures.
The law doesn’t allow you to spend money before registering as a candidate — yet the campaign expenses show a bill for $23,000 incurred the day before he registered.
The law says that a campaign can only borrow from a registered financial institution, such as a bank, yet the holding company of Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, paid a $77,000 bill for the campaign and wasn’t repaid until a few weeks later.
The law sets a limit on the amount that can be spent on the campaign apart from fundraising expenses, on which there is no limit. (Yes, it is a big loophole.) For a Toronto mayoralty campaign, that’s about $1.3 million.
The Ford campaign moved an expense of $102,000 to the fundraising side even though it is shown to be for direct mail, telephone canvassing and fundraising commission.
There are questions about whether his rental of an RV for the campaign was in fact a contribution from a corporation — and in Toronto, donations from corporations are not permitted.
More recently, in early October, the mayor filed some more election expense documents, claiming he held three fundraising events in June to produce another $71,500, mostly to pay for the lawyer representing him on the campaign audit appeal. But contrary to the law, he shows no expenses for these three events, as though the money just drifted in.
It is not a pretty picture, and because the mayor has appealed the audit, we don’t yet have a full and accurate picture of whether these questions have good answers or not.
But the big question that begs an answer now is perfectly clear: Is Mayor Rob Ford someone who can be trusted to make wise decisions about the city’s finances when his personal campaign’s finances seem so muddled?
Post City Magazines’ columnist John Sewell is a former mayor of Toronto and the author of a number of urban planning books including The Shape of Suburbs.