Toronto’s Rob Ford tops a long list of Canadian mayors in turmoil

Matt Coutts
Daily Brew

Have you heard the one about the Canadian mayor facing conflict of interest allegations surrounding public money spent on a restaurant he owned?

Or the one about the mayor charged by the RCMP with three criminal offenses who is fighting public pressure to retain his job?

How about the tale of the mayor who was swept out of office amid corruption allegations but claims his innocence? Or the other one, just like that?

If you're response was something along the lines of, "Enough about Rob Ford! Not everyone lives in Toronto," then you are wrong.

[ Related: Rob Ford countdown clock tracks mayor's departure — to the second ]

Well, you are right that not everyone lives in Toronto. But of the instances above, exactly none of them are in reference to the country's most notorious high school football coach.

The mayor's in question come from Winnipeg, London, Ont., Montreal and Laval, Que., respectively.

They are just the most recent and significant examples of Canadian city leaders who have allegedly run afoul of legality and ethics.

Rob Ford may be the most notorious of Canada's troubled mayors, but he is not alone.

Let's take a quick look at the cities under fire:

  • Toronto population: 2.615 million
  • London: 366,000
  • Winnipeg: 730,000
  • Montreal: 1.649 million
  • Laval: 401,000

Combined, that is a total of 5.762 million Canadians living in cities where the mayor faces turmoil -- six per cent of the country's entire population.

That is not to mention Mississauga, where longtime Mayor Hazel McCallion faces a court application alleging she improperly backed a motion related to her son's real estate dealings, and Halifax, where Peter Kelly did not seek re-election as allegations swirled of another foul real estate deal.

So was November just a bad month for mayors, or is this the tip of a much larger iceberg?

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz doesn't appear overly concerned about the conflict-of-interest allegation set to go to court in April.

The Winnipeg Free Press reports that Katz is being sued by a local restaurateur who claims $2,900 in tax dollars was spent on a city Christmas party held at Hu's Asian Bistro, a restaurant the mayor owned at the time.

Katz's lawyer says there is no comparison between the suit and Ford's conflict-of-interest case, calling the allegations against Katz "nonsense."

[ Related: Winnipeg mayor mum on Rob Ford's removal from office ]

Meantime in Ontario, London Mayor Joe Fontana faces pressure to step down from office after the RCMP charged him with fraud, breach of trust and uttering forged documents dating back to his days as a federal MP.

The CBC reports the charges stem from allegations that in 2005 Fontana, then a federal cabinet minister, used some public money to fund his son's wedding reception.

Fontana says he plans to plead not guilty and will not step down as mayor, despite pressure from city hall to clear the way.

In Quebec, the mayors of Montreal and Laval have both stepped down amid a corruption investigation into construction contracts.

Both Montreal's Gérald Tremblay and Laval's Gilles Vaillancourt have since been replaced by interim leaders.

Vaillancourt said when he stepped down that he was unfairly painted by the corruption allegations and would be retiring from politics.

So we have one mayor facing a scurrilous allegation not yet challenged in court, another facing charges tied to when he was swimming in the federal pond, two ousted mayors wrapped up in a province-wide corruption probe and Rob Ford.

[ Related: Questions raised about 'draconian' law that saw Toronto's mayor ousted ]

All in all, a pretty nice lot we've chosen, Canada.