When the John Tory “inappropriate relationship” story broke, an American tweeted that it was cute that Canadians still feel the need to resign over things like this. Furthermore, there were numerous stories not defending the mayor of Toronto, but stating that he should stay in office, especially given the political state Toronto is in, coupled with concerns of who may replace him. Many comments followed in support of this opinion.
Is this what it has come down to – those of high authority can check an affair with a member of their staff off as okay-ish to do?
Let’s not forget this was not a one-off – this relationship carried on. Perhaps because it ended, Mr. Tory thought he was in the clear. He, like many others who do similar things, was prepared to risk his job, marriage and reputation. Some get away with it. Who knows why this was exposed now and not earlier?
We tend to hear about politicians who have affairs all the time, mostly out of the United States. John Edwards, Matt Gaetz, Anthony Weiner, Van Taylor, just to name a few. Sometimes they resign, but sometimes they do not, usually taking time off to reflect and be with their families to heal (and let’s not forget how they throw religion into the mix). They make it seem like an honest mistake. Remember the “men have certain needs” quip used in Three’s Company, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and more?
Let us not normalize this behaviour among our elected officials, even if other countries do, or tend to not give it the attention it deserves. For starters:
- There is us, and there is them. Them are people who are held to a higher standard because they are supposed to represent that. Elected into the top job for Canada’s largest city, Mr. Tory is not one of us. He is the face of the city, represents the city at the highest levels of government, and as a world class city, is its chief ambassador. He is expected to exercise good judgement, not get away with bad judgment.
- More than Mr. Tory will pay the price – particularly his wife, who (I imagine) is facing the worst kind of public embarrassment a wife of a politician can face. She may or may not have known, but whatever the state of their marriage is, she is in the public eye as much as her spouse. If something he did affects her, then she a victim too.
- Let us not forget the person he had the affair with. A politician’s mistress tends to pay a bigger price, labelled the one making the advances, rather than simply making an error in judgment. As the story goes, she left her job as an adviser to the mayor, which sounds pretty high profile.
- He is the boss. Mr. Tory is in a position of authority and many of us believe we should do what the boss says. Even if it was consensual, he has a hierarchical position of power over her, another reason that this is wrong.
Human resource consultants know this drill: Around mid to late January the inquiries about “sensitivity training” start coming in. It’s the usual story – a high-ranking male executive behaved “inappropriately” at the company Christmas party with a younger, usually female employee. Since then, she has been dismissed with a nice severance package and the executive (who still has his high-paying job and title) needs sensitivity training.
Staying in office would have normalized the behaviour, or at least made it seem not as bad as it was. That is a slippery slope. Good judgment, high standards of behaviour, as well as a moral conscience should not be too much to ask of someone in a position of authority, especially as the highest-ranking elected official in Canada’s largest city. These are positions of privilege and honour. Anything less than this would be an insult.
Mr. Tory embarrassed himself but, more importantly, the office he serves and, consequently, the people of Toronto. Goodbye Mr. Tory.
Eileen Dooley is a talent and leadership development specialist, and a leadership coach, based in Calgary