City & Politics, Essay

Teflon Don victorious

This past Friday our esteemed and beloved mayor was forgiven all sins yet again as Justice Brenda Keyser ruled that there was no violation of conflict of interest laws when Sam Katz held a Christmas party at the now defunct Hu’s Asian Bistro (owned by Katz) and used public funds to pay for it.

The Teflon Don slips by yet again.

The judge did note that Katz was guilty of “bad political and ethical behaviour” but that to trigger an election based on a $3000 gaffe was inappropriate and would not generally serve the public.  Because to eliminate a clearly disingenuous politician such as Katz is not in the public interest, I suppose.

I would have to disagree.

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This is the latest in a long line of shady, inappropriate, and generally disrespectful moves that our mayor has made, and I have to wonder when he will be held accountable for his behaviour.  He certainly does not seem to be remorseful in any way.  This is a man who is elected to a fairly high municipal office.  Should he not be accountable to the voters?  It seems, when watching the scrum that took place following Keyser’s ruling, that Katz doesn’t really think so.

Lets go back to the beginning.  When Katz was first elected he promised to put all his businesses in a blind trust–which did not happen.  He bought shell companies from friends within City Hall.  He was completely ignorant of land swap deals and cost overruns on fire halls.

Either this man is crooked or he is a moron.  To be honest, it is difficult to decide.

And we eat it up.  As a member of Winnipeg royalty, we seem incapable of considering anyone else for the mayor’s office, despite the fact that Katz thumbs his nose at voters over and over again.  He won’t even honestly engage with reporters to answer their questions on the conflict of interest issue, eventually refusing to acknowledge or answer tough questions being asked by Bartley Kives, electing instead to swing at some of the softballs lobbed in by other reporters.

When an opportunity arises to finally take this apparently untouchable politician to task for a clear ethical breach, Katz’s megalomania is reinforced by our justice system.  Because $3000 is too paltry a sum to worry about.  The sum is irrelevant.  What is relevant is whether or not he broke the law, and Keyser’s ruling is not really clear on that.  What she did do was prevaricate over the wording of Section 16 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, and point out that under Section 21 she would be able to avoid ruling altogether should she have decided that there was a clear conflict.

I am no lawyer or person of great intelligence, but I have to wonder what would have happened to someone in lesser office under similar circumstances–someone without millions of dollars and deep political/economic connections within this city.  I know that if I committed a $3000 ethical blunder at work I would be fired.  If I ran a business and an employee did something similar, I would fire them.  I certainly wouldn’t wait a few years, giving them the opportunity to stick it to me over and over again.  They would be gone, right quick, possibly with my foot up their ass on the way out the door.

I only hope that come the next mayoralty race in Winnipeg others feel the same way and show Mr. Katz that he doesn’t have us to kick around anymore.  Then he and Rob Ford can go have a drink, discuss the good old days, and snicker at how much shit they were able to pull without being held remotely accountable.

Brett Geisel is a Winnipeg-based writer for Spectator Tribune.