What does the removal of the mayor mean for a Toronto casino?
In a surprising move, the Ontario Superior Court has removed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford from office. The facts behind the removal are convoluted, but basically the Mayor voted to rescind a sanction by Toronto City Council after he reasonably ought to have known that, by so voting, he would be violating the provincial Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. The MCIA provides that removal from office is one of the remedies available for breach of the statute. The decision itself has been stayed for fourteen days to allow Toronto to address the mayor’s getting tossed out of office, but questions still remain about what exactly happens to Ford pending the appeal to the Divisional Court that Ford has already said is forthcoming.
No-one should feel sorry for Rob Ford. He has no-one to blame but himself. The court’s decision in the case is here.
Currently there’s a big debate about whether Toronto wants a casino within the city — there is no commercial casino resort in the city presently — and several of the biggest international commercial casinos have expressed interest in running such a property. Ontario Lottery and Gaming (the provincially-owned monopoly operator) has indicated that a casino will only come to Toronto if the city wants it. Mayor Ford was a big backer of a local casino, so if he’s removed, what happens to the prospects for getting a casino in Toronto?
The answer is: not much. The counterpoint to the mayor’s support was always a qualification: Toronto council has 45 members, including the mayor. The mayor has one vote out of 45. The mayor has a bully pulpit and still has considerable voter support, but has alienated and offended so many people that I’m not sure how valuable those factors are anymore. He’s also been so preoccupied by court cases and his own pratfalls that he hasn’t had time to drum up support for much of a legislative programme (if one exists), let alone a casino. So just as his vote was only one vote in favour with limited potential to bring others along, losing his vote is only one vote lost.
I remain pretty optimistic that Toronto will play ball with OLG. The benefits of a casino are too big to ignore and the pressure on council to get one is mounting. Proponents have released a couple of studies lately solidly supporting a casino in the city. (The next big question, if we get one, is where it will be located in the city. Toronto is a big place and several options are on the table.) My guess is that the odds are about the same with or without Rob Ford.