Error by design: the difference between being dumb or duplicitous

di Joe Volpe del January 5, 2021

TORONTO - Phillips and Rizzo stumble in the sun. If anything, the Rod Phillips Affair has taught us there is a limit to the public’s gullibility.

Phillips, former Minister of Finance in Ontario, exhausted from the onerous task of redistributing some Federal government finances to her Majesty’s loyal subjects resident in Ontario, set in motion plans to relieve the stress in some forgotten (but not inexpensive) isle in the Caribbean, as soon as the Legislature adjourned its work on December 8, 2020, for two months. Obviously, some opposition was to be expected.

But, it’s a tough job, especially when you are reduced to being a prop for the Premier’s daily Press briefings – or hectoring, as the case might be. Besides, Mr. Phillips had the blessing of his boss, the Premier. Moreover, he and his team had been meticulous in preparing scheduled social media interventions, while away, that would convey the impression that he, the Finance Minister, was indeed “just around the corner”. What could go wrong? Let me see… how about… everything?

Once the Premier let it slip that he had known about Phillips’ “religious rendezvous” with other sunworshippers, as the rest of us laboured under the need to isolate, stay indoors and eschew contact of any type with those we love, the game was all but over.

Either the Premier would be dragged through the mud along with his Minister of Finance or Phillips would have to kiss it all good-bye. The “system” is bigger than any of its component parts. Mind you, Phillips tried, through friendly Media, to sound remorseful: “it was dumb, dumb, really dumb”, he said of his trip. To no avail. Bad judgement is not always easily forgiven in politics.

At least there did not appear to be any untoward manipulation of the law for personal material gain. In the case of Minister Lecce, there are still unresolved questions related to his unexpected approval of a $24 million grant to the TCDSB to improve the facilities in a 90-year old, heritage building for student use.

One year ago, the Board had declared the site (a former convent) in need of “urgent” remediation, given the asbestos and mold permeating the facilities. Now, thanks to a federal “windfall”, he negotiated the “allocation” with Maria Rizzo, “the trustee” in the area. The allocation reportedly came in return for her support and leadership to replace Christian (Catholic) wording in the vision statement of the TCDSB (as required under the Education Act and the Constitution) with vocabulary demanded by the Human Rights Commission. The Commission has NO legal jurisdiction over Catholic Boards in the province.

Whether the negotiations took place as reported, Lecce and Ministry officials engaged with the wrong person. Ms. Rizzo is not a qualified Separate School (Catholic) supporter as defined by the Education Act; therefore, she was/ is ineligible to seek or hold office as a Catholic School Board Trustee. It matters little that the public, having been deprived of the essential information, decided against the rest of the field in the election.

Anyone who aided or continues to abet (after the fact) the duplicity is an accessory to the electoral fraud. Until the Director addresses the three formal complaints he has received in this regard, he will be of little service to the Board, the Ministry or the Diocese.

Oddly enough, Rod Phillips knew the difference between bad judgement and questionable legal behaviour. He accepted his fate for “dumbness”, preferring that descriptive to “duplicitous” and fraudulent.

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