Remember “GreensboroGate?” Of course you don’t. Yet for the better part of July, August, September and October of 2012, it was the obsession of the hyena-pack known as the Toronto media, who used this trifling issue to try to bring Mayor Rob Ford down.
Maybe you faintly recall, with just three weeks to go before the August 2012 50th anniversary celebrations at the Ford family business, Deco Labels and Tags, some long-overdue repairs and maintenance to the company’s city street, Greensboro Drive, had yet to begin. Mayor Ford made some calls and arranged a meeting with city staff, and in three weeks, all the work was done in time.
Abuse of office, they cried! Conflict of interest, they bellowed!
Fast-forward two years, to the heat of the 2014 Mayoral campaign. John Tory had become the media favourite in the race to become Toronto’s next Mayor. It was no secret that Tory was a registered lobbyist for Rogers Communications Inc., still sat on the RCI board of directors, and remained part of the Rogers Control Trust, the entity that owns 91% of the voting shares of RCI. Was the media interested?
Nah. Crickets. All the major media outlets in Toronto, in their crusade to defeat the Ford family, jumped on the John Tory campaign bandwagon, endorsed Mr. Tory, and ignored any hint of a problem. Conflict of interest? Nah, nothing to see here, move along, move along.
With only one professional journalist, Joe Warmington of The Toronto Sun, willing to explore this issue on the record, Tory and his people were able to shrug it off as some sort of personal vendetta from a writer who is seen as being very tight with the Fords. However, all that began to change earlier this week.
On Tuesday, Warmington finally got a City Councillor to go on the record regarding Tory and his status on the Rogers Control Trust. “He should recuse himself as soon as any discussion about use of a phone comes up,” said Jim Karygiannis, a former federal Liberal MP who fell out with that party over the abortion issue, and now seems to be a loose cannon on a city council dominated by Wynne-connected Provincial Liberals. Karygiannis has gone to war with Tory on behalf of the Taxi industry lobby, which has good reason to suspect Tory’s unflinching support for Uber stems from Tory’s Rogers ties.
After Karygiannis opened the can of worms, Tory agreed to appear on Warmington’s Tuesday night radio show on NewsTalk 1010 to discuss the conflict-of-interest story, among other issues of the day. It was a testy exchange that is well worth the listen; Tory was prickly, at times agitated, and made it clear he was not amused at having to answer questions about his multiple declared and potential conflicts of interest.
Another journalist finally joined Warmington in exploring the issue of Mayor Tory’s conflicts-of-interest. In a stunningly blunt article published Wednesday in Metro, a Toronto Star property no less, Jessica Smith Cross exposed three John Tory campaign insiders who moved directly into lobbying at Toronto City Hall – John Capobianco, John Duffy, and Courtney Glen.
On the Facebook page "I Hate the War on Mayor Rob Ford,” my fellow administrators and I, as well as several fine regular commenters, tried to warn Toronto about the problems associated with a Mayor Tory. We nicknamed him “John Liberal” for working openly with Ontario Liberal Party politicians and insiders to get elected – that would come at a price.
We also nicknamed him “Mr. Rogers” for his lifelong family and business ties to Canada’s largest media company (and multi-million-dollar contractor to the City of Toronto), Rogers Communications Inc. We taunted Toronto’s left for abandoning Saint Jack Layton’s widow to line up behind what should have been their worst nightmare, a Board of Trade crony corporatist Wynne Liberal.
It gives me no great pleasure to say “I told you so”. The last thing I want is for the tax rolls of Toronto’s residents to be used as a fresh new ATM machine for companies, politicians and lobbyists closely tied to the Mayor’s pecuniary interests and election campaigns. It does please me, however, to see that it took just seven months for the can of worms to be opened on the John Tory administration.
For the next three-and-a-half years, he won’t be able to open his mouth without first declaring his potential conflicts of interests, or having his potential conflicts examined by the media. Thanks to Warmington, Smith Cross, and Karygiannis, the door has been opened for all to use this legitimate and crucial issue as a wedge against the Mayor’s agenda, for better or for worse.
Give it another year. Toronto’s going to be begging for another Mayor whose biggest potential conflict is the express repaving of Greensboro Drive.
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