TORONTO - Premier Ford is learning the hard way the lessons of Crisis Management 101: “a stitch in time saves nine”, or, that the best cure is “do not get sick”.
First, he was riddled with ridicule for his public relations gambit “open for business” signs. Someone forgot to tell him the price tag, and, he - rightly – did not want to guess. It ensures more pot shots down the road.
Secondly, his Minister for Sartorial Splendour – he whose fashion statement on the job is defined by his now ‘‘must wear bullet-proof vest” – became the subject of an expose’ piece by the Globe and Mail’s Shannon Kari.
By Friday, iPolitics.ca, an online political magazine, drilled a little deeper into the story. By Saturday, QPBriefing, yet another political magazine, had produced a veritable essay dissecting the ethical practices of the hapless Minister for Correctional Services. It appears from the stories that the Minister’s association with ethics is tenuous at best.
The stories all deal with one particularly glaring, example. The Minister, known in the Italian community as Ti-Bullo, was the President and CEO of a company convicted of a $40 million fraud. The precise number has been debated, but, the presiding Judge, Justice John Geli.e, said “…by anyone’s arithmetic, this was a massive, colossal fraud”.
Mr. Ti-Bullo was being paid $500, 000 per annum (2018 dollars) for his expert services at the time. Several associates were convicted, fined and/or jailed. He escaped conviction on a technicality but the trial judge was merciless on his assessment of Ti-Bullo’s ethics.
(Full disclosure: during the election, the Corriere Canadese had written about this and about the fact that there were numerous lawsuits in which Mr. Ti-Bullo was either the Plaintiff or Defendant. The Corriere Canadese and its editorial staff are Defendants in one of those Statements of Claim.)
Somehow, Mr. Ti-Bullo passed the required screening before entering into Cabinet, suggesting (perhaps wrongly), that ethical practices are not part of this government’s priorities.
One wonders why the Integrity Commissioner did not raise red flags. In the past, governments of all political stripes have demanded at the very least that any candidates clear up outstanding legal issues prior to Cabinet swearings-in. In this instance, the matter, after the fact, was deemed serious enough in its consequences to prompt the dismissal of the Minister’s chief of staff and the shuffing of three other chiefs of staff. – probably to soften the impact.
It probably prolonged the agony. The Premier’s oce as well as the Cabinet Oce must have been swamped with calls from the Minister’s colleagues and PC adherents who see this as a negative reflection on the government’s ethical compass.
The Premier ran against rot and corruption from within his own party and that of the government of the day. Also on Friday, Minister Jim Wilson, a long serving MPP, whose personal public service has been beyond reproach, announced he was leaving Cabinet “to deal with some addiction issues”. It’s how the Ti-Bullo case should have been handled.
Now it’s turned into a costly personal and government exercise.