04.16.2010 08:44 AM

The Furious George campaign gets curiouser

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.

10 Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    Warren:

    I don’t agree with you on this, although I admit it doesn’t seem quite right. But ordinarily a conflict would exist where there is a possibility of a personal, financial benefit to be obtained either by the individual or close friend or relative, and I don’t see that here.

    Strange, though. I searched the TDSB website and while there is a defined employee conflict of interest policy, there doesn’t seem to be a policy specifically for the Board. In the policy employees are defined as being employees OF the Board, thereby excluding the Board from the policy.

  2. Debra Davis says:

    Interesting view … one I wouldn’t agree with. I don’t think anyone should question Bruce’s integrity. He just a very committed activist and we need more like him. (And thanks for your kind words.)

  3. Paul R. Martin says:

    As a resident of Brampton I am furious at the way George short changed hospitals and health care in this city. If I still lived in Toronto, I would be voting for Rossi.

  4. J. Coates. says:

    Jeezuz Murphy. Toronto this, Toronto that. Who made it the center of the universe?

    After all, Calgary is the center of the universe.

  5. Would you prefer Rob Ford? I don’t get it.

  6. Derek Lipman says:

    Cherniak makes a great point. If not GS, then who? Joey Pants cannot win against the backdrop of anti-Miller, anti-Giambrone sentiment, and Rossi is about to enter a free fall, leaving Ford as the strongest challenger.

    If voters want to see a boorish blowhard falling through tables and mouthing off, they don’t need to elect one for four years to the office of mayor of Canada’s most vital city; instead, they can simply walk to their local video store and rent Beverly Hills Ninja for a couple of bucks.

    DL

  7. sj says:

    I really don’t seen any difference between this and when Bruce ran Lastman’s campaign and then sat on the school board. Any of us, who know Bruce, know he is not likely to be easily swayed from doing what he thinks is right for the school board or students. Would I be concerned if either he or Debra wore on the other side from me during a campaign? Asolutely, but I wouldn’t question their integrity. That being said, George would probably not be my first choice. But I live a long way from TO.

  8. J. Heimer says:

    I cannot see how there is a conflict.

    There are two possibilities. One is that it could create a conflict during the mayoralty campaign. The second is that it could create a conflict after the mayoralty campaign, if Smitherman wins.

    Obviously there is no conflict during the campaign. Smitherman has no power until he is elected so there is no current conflict. The second possibility is that there could be a conflict after the campaign if Smitherman wins. If Smitherman wins he will have had past dealings with several individuals who have an interest in what the City does. The most obvious example of this will be the fact that he was a former cabinet member and will have former contacts with the Provincial government, including the Premier. However, previous contacts with holders of political office do not create conflicts. Similarly if Smitherman has a previous contact with Bruce Davidson, this will not create a conflict for Davidson or Smitherman. If however, after the election, Davidson decides to take a position in Smitherman’s office, this obviously could create a conflict. However, Davidson can decide what role he wants to have in Smitherman’s office, when and if Smitherman is elected. If he takes a position in Smitherman’s office, Davidson can, at that time, decide whether he needs to give up his position with the Board. However, this decision is premature.

    By the way, Warren, you seem to be supporting Rossi. Have you publicly declared this yet? Are you formally working for his campaign?

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