Musings —04.16.2010 08:44 AM—
Bruce Davis is a friend of mine. Has been a long time. His sister, who I adore, is one of my oldest friends, and is a political genius.
Bruce is also the chair of the Toronto District School Board – a former client of mine, full disclosure – and, now, the manager of George Smitherman’s mayoralty campaign. One editorial this morning wonders how Bruce can do that, and his business, and still give the TDSB the attention it deserves. It’s a fair question.
I have a different question, however. I know it’s a question Bruce will consider, because he is a regular reader of this web site.
Is it a conflict of interest, real or perceived?
Here’s my concern: the TDSB, along with the City, is one of the biggest landowners in the Greater Toronto Area. I can tell you that, on a near-daily basis, the TDSB and the City have multi-million-dollar dealings with each other on real property deals, swaps/sales, and taxation/revenue issues. In some cases, title searches will reveal that they actually hold interests-in-common on certain important pieces of land. (There is a supposed arms-length body to deal with dispositions of TDSB land, but trustees like Bruce are regularly called upon to opine on same, and the agency openly admits it “partners” with political leaders like the city’s mayor.)
That’s not all: in the past – and I know this, because I was personally involved – TDSB had direct dealings with the Office of the Mayor over the shared use of schools and school/city property, in every part of the City of Toronto. (It didn’t go anywhere, because David Miller is a doofus.)
There are many more such relationships between the City and the TDSB. Most of the relationships are managed by officials, and politicians like Bruce never get near them in any meaningful way. But the fact remains that TDSB trustees – and Bruce is the top one – regularly get called upon to express opinions about, and make decisions about, deals with the City of Toronto. That’s just a fact.
Will any of the other mayoralty campaigns make hay with what seems – superficially, at least – to be resplendent with potential for conflict? Beats me. I do know that a few of said campaigns have been buzzing about the dramatic changes in Smitherman’s campaign team. So they might. It’s political low-hanging fruit, as they say.
If I were advising Bruce on this one, and I guess I sort of am, I’d therefore recommend choosing: be TDSB chair, or be campaign manager. You’d do a terrific job at both. You’d be formidable, as always.
Just don’t try and do both at the same time.