Municipal Conflicts of Interest in Canada, Old and New

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The following post was originally featured on December 4 2012.

By Daniel Ross

He was a controversial mayor from the start. An unabashed populist, he rallied support during his campaigns by promising to cut taxes and reduce waste at city hall. As a result, he won an impressive share of the popular vote. He never denied having links to the city’s business and development community—he ran a successful business himself—and his policies certainly reflected that. From early on, accusations of bending the rules shadowed his career. But it was a legal challenge from an ordinary citizen alleging a conflict of interest that led to him losing his job.

Rob Ford and William Hawrelak. Sources: City of Toronto; City of Edmonton Archives, EA-10-1600

That man’s name was William Hawrelak, mayor of Edmonton from 1951-59, 1963-65, and 1974-75. His story is remarkable, and not just because of its superficial similarities to that of recently deposed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Few Canadian politicians have managed to combine success and failure as dramatically as he did in his 30-year career in public office. But in another way, his tale, like Ford’s, is nothing new. Concern over politicians using public office for private benefit has often dogged local politics in Canada, and one result has been strict conflict of interest law.

In this post I’d like to take a look at Rob Ford’s removal from office in light of a short history of municipal conflict of interest in Canada. It turns out there is nothing unprecedented about the penalty he faces, or the populist way he and his supporters have responded to his removal. Continue reading

Municipal Conflicts of Interest in Canada, Old and New

By Daniel Ross

He was a controversial mayor from the start. An unabashed populist, he rallied support during his campaigns by promising to cut taxes and reduce waste at city hall. As a result, he won an impressive share of the popular vote. He never denied having links to the city’s business and development community—he ran a successful business himself—and his policies certainly reflected that. From early on, accusations of bending the rules shadowed his career. But it was a legal challenge from an ordinary citizen alleging a conflict of interest that led to him losing his job.

Rob Ford and William Hawrelak. Sources: City of Toronto; City of Edmonton Archives, EA-10-1600

That man’s name was William Hawrelak, mayor of Edmonton from 1951-59, 1963-65, and 1974-75. His story is remarkable, and not just because of its superficial similarities to that of recently deposed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Few Canadian politicians have managed to combine success and failure as dramatically as he did in his 30-year career in public office. But in another way, his tale, like Ford’s, is nothing new. Concern over politicians using public office for private benefit has often dogged local politics in Canada, and one result has been strict conflict of interest law.

In this post I’d like to take a look at Rob Ford’s removal from office in light of a short history of municipal conflict of interest in Canada. It turns out there is nothing unprecedented about the penalty he faces, or the populist way he and his supporters have responded to his removal. Continue reading