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In the spring of 2011, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's staff enlisted bureaucrats to explore whether the city could expropriate 7,195 square feet of land to help a soap company expand its parking lot
What no one in the civil service was told at that the time was that the soap manufacturer, Apollo Health and Beauty Care, contracts the Ford family's printing company, Deco Labels and Tags, to make labels for its shampoos and body washes.
On Monday, the mayor denied any wrongdoing, explaining that he "did not try to expropriate land" and that he hasn't done "anything of the sort for Apollo."
Follow the trail of e-mails that show how Apollo urged the mayor to solve its parking dilemma, how expropriation became a possibility, and how the bureaucracy tried to resist being drawn into what one civil servant dubbed a "dog and pony show."
June 14: 'We must fix this.'
With construction underway of Apollo’s 400,000-square-foot factory in North Toronto, the company became concerned about the private road that was supposed to lead to its new building. The approved site plan called for parking spaces along the lane, but Apollo’s co-owner Richard Wachsberg worried that the parking spaces would clog the road. On June 14, 2011, Mr. Wachsberg e-mails Mayor Ford and Councillor Doug Ford and urges them to solve his problem, writing “I cannot accept this at all.”
June 15: The mayor’s staff uses the E-word (expropriation)
The next day, mayoral staffer Kia Nejatian emails the head of Toronto’s real estate division, Joe Casali, and tells him “there has been a discussion of expropriating a property …” in connection with Apollo Health and Beauty Care. (The mayoral aide identifies a portion of land east of Apollo that, ultimately, was not the land the city was asked to acquire.) Mr. Casali refers him to Tim Park, the city’s manager of acquisitions and expropriations, who is told to attend a meeting at Apollo’s headquarters on June 17.
June 17: The day of the meeting, 'Sheesh'
Neil Cresswell, the head planner for the area where Apollo was erecting its building, is also summoned to the June 17 meeting. On the morning of the meeting, he e-mails Mr. Park and wonders why the official in charge of expropriations has become embroiled in this matter.
June 17: 'The Dog and Pony Show'
Mr. Park replies to Mr. Cresswell, explaining that, indeed, he has been enlisted because of a possible expropriation, despite his insistence that such a measure can only be taken when the land is for public use, and not for a private interest. At 2:30 p.m., both he and Mr. Cresswell attend the meeting at Apollo.
June 20: Apollo identifies the land it wants and enlists Mayor Ford
On Monday morning, two days after the Friday meeting, Mr. Wachsberg e-mails his proposal to Mayor Ford and his mayoral aide, Mr. Nejatian. He asks the mayor to obtain a portion of land owned by Suncor Energy Inc. – which he identifies in a map that he attaches to the email – and raises the possibility of an “expropriation.” He points out that this plan is “in exact consideration of our discussion.”
June 20: 'It’s clear the mayor wants to ensure Mr. Wachsberg achieves his objective.'
That same day, Mr. Cresswell summarizes his on-site meeting at Apollo for a manager. He explains that he believes Mr. Wachsberg’s true aim is to rid his private road of parking spots so it will appear more like a public road – and he has the full support of the mayor. He explains that it was agreed that Mayor Ford’s office will contact Suncor Energy Inc., and ask them to let Apollo’s developer, a company called the Milestone Group, use the land so Apollo can expand its parking.