We are not privy to Rob Ford’s philosophy as a high-school football coach, but we are reasonably sure that he knows the rules of the game. He does not put a 13th man on the field. He does not attempt a fourth-down play in a three-down game. You can’t coach without knowing the rules.
As mayor of Toronto, however, Rob Ford argued in court that he didn’t know the rules. That argument might be termed wilful ignorance, and it’s no wonder Mr. Justice Charles Hackland of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice rejected it.
A reasonable person looking at Mr. Ford’s actions, and the serious consequences, would conclude the rules are extreme. But they are the rules. Really, Mr. Ford didn’t want to play by the rules. Not the ones he didn’t like, anyway, such as those governing conflict of interest. (He voted on a motion that he reimburse donors to his football charity for the $3,150 he had improperly solicited using City Council letterhead.)
Mr. Ford has hurt the people who voted for him in large numbers. The country’s biggest city gave him a strong mandate to reduce costs and attack what Mr. Ford described as a culture of entitlement at City Hall. He has even had some success.The plurality who voted for him had a right to expect he would follow the rules and serve out his four-year term.
After the ruling, Mr. Ford denounced his dismissal as the work of a “left-wing cabal.” He just won’t take responsibility for his actions. It was the Conservative government of Stephen Harper that named Judge Hackland the regional senior judge of Ontario’s eastern region. Some left-wing cabal.
It’s not easy to accept when a judge throws out of office an elected politician, for what seems less than a hanging offence. But it was elected officials who enacted Ontario’s Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which has a mandatory penalty: eviction from office. Judge Hackland couldn’t pick and choose which rules to follow, any more than a football referee could.
Mr. Ford took no bribes. The amount of money involved was small. But he refused to understand that democracies, much like football games, live by rules, and that they apply to everyone, equally.