Cross-Country Check-Up


Today we want to talk about something we at Checkup rarely talk about …municipal politics. It is rare because it’s not often that issues arise from the trenches of local politics …where the elbows are sharp ….that go across the country. This time we have two.

The first is the issue of corruption, which can infect any level of politics. It has been getting a good airing in Montreal as the Charbonneau Commission uncovers allegations of what seems to be a torrent of public cash diverted for political and personal ends — millions and millions of dollars. In one month, three Quebec mayors have resigned over what are at this point only allegations.

There are other towns and cities across the country that have situations where corruption, conflict of interest or wrong-doing are suspected. Winnipeg, Windsor and Toronto are three examples. It raises the question: “Are municipal politicians more untrustworthy now than before?” Are they less trustworthy than provincial or federal politicians? What do you think?

It is the last example, Toronto, that got people talking across the country this past week, because the case there raises the second issue …about where to draw the line between politics and the law.

The judicial ouster of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford came as a surprise to many …not the least to Rob Ford, whose tenure in office so far has been marked by a tone of embattlement. Mr Ford’s first response after the judgment was that it was politics at work here not the law. There are many who would agree …on the basis that the scale of the transgression was rather small compared to the usual cases of conflict of interest.

Before Rob Ford became mayor, while a councillor, he used the city letterhead to solicit donations to his own charity for boys. Later as mayor he voted against a move to force him to pay out of his own pocket the $3-thousand dollars he had raised for the charity. And that was the point that brought him down in a court …once a private citizen and political activist worked hard to bring him there. There is no question that Mr Ford broke the rules …and seemed to be unrepentent about it too. There are many who believe strongly that Mr Ford is not above the law …that we cannot trifle with such rules because to do otherwise undermines the whole system of law. Neverthless people remain split on this issue, and those in the so-called the Ford Nation are confident that Rob Ford would be easily re-elected in a by-election.

Why is this a national issue? We hear more often today that politics has become a battle that is fought bitterly …perhaps too bitterly …as a bloodsport well beyond the ballot box …that we have entered a time where politics is fought by-any-means-possible. Has a loss on election day come to mean only that you keep trying to battle and undermine whomever was elected?

You might have noticed this at the local, provincial or federal level. It is certainly evident south of the border that the campaign does not stop after the election is won. Would another mayor not as polarizing as Rob Ford have been brought before a court for a similar reason? Where is the line between politics and the law?

We’d like to hear your views on both of these points: whether municipal politics is going through a dark period where corruption has become all too common …and what role does politics itself play in the act of holding our elected officials to account?

Our question today: “From the ouster of Rob Ford to the resignation of Montreal’s Mayor Tremblay, are you losing faith in municipal politics?”

( approximately at 31 minutes )

This content has been updated on August 23, 2014 at 12:19.