John Lorinc for the Globe & Mail:
Toronto council’s compliance audit committee today unanimously voted to order a full audit of Mayor Rob Ford’s campaign expenses in response to accusations by Toronto residents Max Reed and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler that provincial elections laws were breached.
In their requests for a compliance audit, they alleged that Mr. Ford may have exceeded his spending limits and relied on unorthodox funding arrangements, which saw the Ford family’s holding company pay over $77,000 in campaign expenses.
I previously indicated that this story wasn’t really doing much for me, but it’s been getting more interesting. Publicly, Ford and his press secretary Adrienne Batra have indicated that they’re happy to see an audit go forward. But Ford’s lawyer’s tact today was different.
The Toronto Star’s David Rider:
Tom Barlow, a lawyer representing Ford, argued strenuously against the need for such a probe, repeatedly noting that Ford has until September to file additional campaign information, and it will erase any concerns.
“The answers are in the second phase” of filing, Barlow told the panel. He later said Ford will consider going to the courts to try to get the panel’s ruling overturned.
That argument would seem to be the legal equivalent of telling your landlord that your rent cheque is in the mail.
It seems to me that Ford should simply submit to the compliance audit. If it’s found that his campaign violated the rules — and it seems plausible that they did — I don’t think he’d lose much face in admitting a mistake and accepting the penalty. It’s still very unlikely he’d get removed from office over this kind of thing.
So why the tough talk today and the spectre of a court challenge? Either the campaign is hiding something or Ford is doing that thing where he denies all wrongdoing until presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Fun coincidence of the day: at the same time Ford’s lawyer was talking about a court challenge over this issue, the City Clerk was apparently ceding to political pressure to not appeal an earlier judgment that called for a by-election in Ward 9. Set for July 25, the race will likely pit incumbent and Ford opponent Maria Augimeri against Rob Ford’s pal Gus Cusimano.
While losing Augimeri would be a blow to council’s left, it wouldn’t be a do-or-die situation. The balance of power at this point is firmly controlled by council’s middle, regardless of how things stand in Ward 9.
Still, I’d ask Ward 9 voters to consider that this race will likely be between a multi-decade veteran of council who has demonstrated an ability to fight for her Ward’s needs versus a candidate who has expressed a desire to always vote with the mayor.