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Dec 11

Toronto scandals are nothing new, here’s why you shouldn’t let them ruin your Christmas

Toronto scandals?

Toronto is a world-class city.

So it does scandals big… um, yeah.

Ask any city politician.

Toronto scandals are nothing new. The city has survived weirdness long before Rob Ford became mayor.

Toronto scandals are nothing new. The city has survived weirdness long before Rob Ford became mayor.

Forget Rob Ford. He’s a rank amateur.

Toronto has had a world-class scandal that includes all the usual stuff of scandal — sex, abuse of power, stupidity, cupidity, and money — and, in a uniquely Canadian twist, a professional hockey player.

According to Justice Denise Bellamy, who was appointed to probe the scandal, what should have been a routine and even boring computer leasing contract ballooned into a complicated tale of greed, mismanagement, and lying.

The so-called Toronto computer leasing scandal ended up costing the city over $100 million. The biggest cost was the contract between the City of Toronto and MFP Financial Services for $40 million in computers and computer services. The city ended up spending more than $80 million under that contract.

How?

Well, to figure out that (and other aspects of the scandal) the city spent more than $19 million for a three-year inquiry, with witnesses including the treasurer, city budget chief, and a famous hockey player’s brother who worked for MFP. (The hockey player made an appearance at the inquiry to testify on his brother’s behalf.)

Justice Bellamy, who presided over the inquiry, said, “Some people disgraced themselves, failed in their duty to their City, lied, put self-interest first, or simply did not do their jobs.” The report contains more than 240 recommendations for preventing a repeat of the scandal.

Although MFP was not the only city supplier that seemed to cross conflict-of-interest lines, its name is the one most associated with the scandal, primarily because of its leasing contract with the city — a contract that didn’t have guaranteed lease rates and to which additional equipment was allowed to be added without proper approvals, some of the key reasons for the doubling of the price.

Since the beginning of the inquiry MFP has changed its name to Clearlink Capital Corp. By the summer of 2005, it had settled a number of lawsuits with other municipalities in the province.

During the inquiry Toronto decided it would not pay MFP any more money under its contract. But the city relented. In the fall of 2005, Toronto city lawyers recommended a further $9 million plus payout to MFP to settle its claims. After all, they had a contract.

Ah, good times.

But it doesn’t end there.

In July 2001, when Toronto lost its bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics, distraught city leaders wrung their hands and pointed their fingers.

Mayor Mel Lastman was the target of most of the finger pointing. Only a month earlier, before visiting Kenya to

Self-made man and the first mega-Toronto mayor, Mel Lastman was no stranger to the many challenges of running a world-class city. He saw his own share of Toronto scandals.

Self-made man and the first mega-Toronto mayor, Mel Lastman was no stranger to the many challenges of running a world-class city. He saw his own share of Toronto scandals.

promote Canada’s bid to the International Olympic Committee, Lastman noted, “I’m sort of scared about going there…. I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me.”

Many IOC members were shocked, especially those from Africa. Instantly, Canada had a worse human rights reputation than China, which is not an easy feat to accomplish. Lastman had helped cannibalize his own city’s bid. Beijing got the Olympics.

It wasn’t the first time bizarre incidents contributed to Toronto’s losing an Olympic bid. The city also failed to get the 1960 Summer Olympics.

City officials apparently lost the bid because they misplaced some paperwork. An official IOC application had been sent to the city in 1954. But no one filled it out. And no one could figure out where it had gone.

These days Olympic bids are fought and awarded with much front page hoopla. But when Toronto lost the 1960 bid, the news made it to page 28 of the Toronto Star on April 15, 1955. The story was not based on an announcement or even a press release. It was based on a letter from Harry Price, chairperson of the Canadian National Exhibition, to the city’s Civic Parks Committee. The Civic Parks Committee, not the mayor and a thousand others, was handling the Olympic bid. The letter from Price described a phone call he had just received from Sidney Dawes, the official Canadian representative on the IOC. According to Price, Dawes told him Toronto had lost the bid.

But Dawes had some good advice for future bids: always accompany the bids with a little gift for IOC members. Over the years, Dawes said, he had collected some very nice gifts from cities competing for the Olympics.

Decades later, a scandal erupted over the awarding of gifts to IOC members by the organizers of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. IOC members were offered cash and scholarships, trips to Disney and Las Vegas, and tickets for the Superbowl.

But this story was taking place in 1955, and the gifts back then were more understated. It’s always a “very nice gesture,” Dawes advised the Toronto bidders, to send each IOC member a lighter with the city crest on it.

Why, if things continued that way, scandals in Toronto would cost taxpayers dozens of dollars!

Mel Lastman has a very interesting blog to check it out, click here.

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