Skip to main content

Report On Business Toronto’s business community gives Ford a thumbs-down

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford photographed during a City Council session on Nov 14, 2013 at City Hall.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's business community is adding its voice to the calls for Rob Ford's resignation and a change of direction at City Hall, saying the scandal is damaging the city's reputation.

Major business groups such as the Toronto Region Board of Trade have expressed concerns about the long string of damaging news reports emerging from Toronto City Hall, but smaller business owners are also worrying about the impact of negative global media coverage on the city.

Bruce Poon-Tip, founder of adventure travel company G Adventures, said Friday it took years for the city to recover from the negative publicity generated during the SARS epidemic crisis in 2003, and it faces another tourism hurdle overcoming the publicity about Mr. Ford's drug and alcohol use and erratic behaviour.

Story continues below advertisement

"I do think this damages the reputation of our city and the hard work of a lot of people who have worked hard to build Toronto back from the days of SARS," he said.

During a speaking tour in Australia in May, Mr. Poon-Tip said he was introduced at three events as being from the home of the "Crack Mayor."

"If anything, it is more of an annoyance, but our politics are now looking like an unstable developing country, and that cannot be good for investment," he said. "Rob Ford should step down. I don't think a leave of absence is enough at this point. It keeps finding new lows and it has gone from crazy to kind of sad."

Toronto-based media research firm Cormex Research said this week its latest review of global newspaper stories that mention Toronto shows 22 per cent of the stories have been negative so far this year – with a majority of the negative coverage involving stories about Mr. Ford. That's a sharp increase from 12 per cent negative coverage last year, and 3 per cent in 2011.

Andrew Laing, director of Cormex's MediaLAB project, said Friday the statistics are going to look even worse when new numbers are released next week covering the prior week of media coverage. He says the negative publicity will harm the city.

"The governance of this city has been absolutely ridiculed right around the world. Why anybody down the road would think favourably on this city as a place to invest in, I don't know," he said. "Could you imagine being a group of Toronto businessmen trying to get the Olympic bid with this kind of profile?"

But Janet Ecker, president of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance, which is dedicated to developing Toronto as a centre for financial service companies, said in an interview she believes most people in business will make investment decisions based on fundamental factors such as business opportunities and work force, and not the "theatre of the absurd" of politics which doesn't affect them on a day-to-day basis.

Story continues below advertisement

"But certainly the longer it goes on, the less helpful it is, and the more it could start to undermine the city's reputation," she said. "I think most people see this as an aberration – it's not speaking to the fundamental culture of our government."

Jeffrey Singer, a partner in law firm Stikeman Elliott's Toronto office, is troubled by Mayor Ford's antics but believes the city's businesses will be able to ride out the storm.

"My presumption would be that this would have no real effect on investment in Toronto or in Ontario," he said. "It is a weird sideshow, but I don't think it would have any meaningful" repercussions when it comes to attracting investors. However, Mr. Singer notes this does not mean he finds the situation acceptable. "I'm truly upset," he said of Mayor Ford.

Bill Holland, chairman of CI Financial Ltd., one of Canada's largest mutual fund companies, said he is finding Mr. Ford "thoroughly hilarious" and believes his situation "has little or no bearing on the business community of Toronto," but added he also feels the mayor should not stay in office.

"We probably need to have better protections to make sure we don't have a politician like this running around," he said.

The Toronto Region Board of Trade, which on Nov. 1 called for Mayor Ford to "take a leave of absence until the situation is resolved," said its position has not changed in light of this week's developments.

Story continues below advertisement

"The Mayor of the city must put Toronto first," Carol Wilding, the organization's chief executive, said in the original statement. Mr. Ford, she said, is not able to put Toronto first in light of the "distraction" and cannot effectively fulfill his duties.

"Putting Toronto first means the Mayor must be able to effectively address our city's key priorities such as attracting investment, jobs and talent from around the world," Ms. Wilding said.

For companies facing any possible association with Mr. Ford, the scandal is especially worrisome. This week, the Toronto Argonauts football team issued a statement distancing itself from the mayor after he gave a press conference while wearing an Argos jersey and acknowledging he may have driven while drunk.

On Friday, the Canadian-based maker of Iceberg Vodka, whose vodka brand has been linked to Mr. Ford in police documents, said it believes driving under the influence of alcohol is "unacceptable and inexcusable behaviour."

With a file from Tara Perkins

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter