A mayor who wants to buy conserve land, a journalist who reports on that and an evening stand-off are all the makings of a hot news story. As City Councillor Joe Mihevc said today, "When you think it can't get weirder, it does!"
Last night behind the home of Mayor Rob Ford a journalist from the Toronto Star says he was researching a story while Ford said he was there taking pictures of his family.
Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale had broken a story about Mayor Ford's request to buy conserve land in order to build a fence to protect his family. The land is located directly behind Ford's home which already has a large wooden fence built to protect his family.
Jim Dillane, Director of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), confirmed that Ford has indeed made a request for the land during a phone interview. Dillane said that a personal representative for Mayor Ford came into the office in April with the request which has been followed by a meeting with Ford himself.
"Mayor Ford did not use his position as mayor during this stage of the process," Dillane stated adding that Ford has followed all of the formal processes to date.
Dillane said that there have been other people who have requested to buy conservation land in the past but that private disposal of the land is not often done. In fact it is so rare that Dillane could not state without research when the last time that happened nor could Dillane think of a time in the past that a government official had requested conserve land. Land requests generally come in from municipalities when they need to use the land to provide services for the community.
"Each request is different and we are following the standard process in this case," Dillane said.
The land in question is a 250 square metre area. At this stage of the process there is no official price on the land, which would be accessed if the executive board agrees to go further on the request and order a study. That meeting will take place on Friday.
The property is currently being managed by the City of Toronto Parks. Is a request by Ford for such land a conflict of interest?
City Councillor Joe Mihevc spoke about Ford's request to buy the land during a phone interview saying that it is "certainly interesting" as why he (Ford) is trying this when he's mayor and not before when he was just a citizen of Toronto. "The timing is peculiar," Mihevc said questioning if that timing is a way to get the property because he is a public figure. "If Ford gets the land it will be very suspicious," Mihevc said considering how long it has been since any private citizen was able to buy conserve land.
If the executive committee approves to go forward with Ford's request a report will take place. That report will cost the city money to complete.
As for the reports that Daniel Dale at Mayor Rob Ford's home, it is true he was on public property behind the mayor's house. The Toronto Star is standing behind their reporter who says he was researching the property that Ford is requesting from the TRCA. Star representative Bob Hepburn said during a televised interview on CP24 that the newspaper is not harassing the city's mayor.
"Daniel Dale was doing basic journalism," Hepburn said firmly.
Dale was taking photos of the land that Ford wants. Hepburn confirmed that relations between Ford and the Star are testy but that is par for the course as the Star has had strained relations with many of Toronto's mayors in the past. What is different in the case of Ford is his refusal to talk to the Star or answer any questions that Star reporters toss his way.
Dale wrote last night that Ford demanded that he drop his phone and recorder during a heated exchange. Ford claims that Dale just dropped the phone and recorder without a request. Ford confirmed that he ran at Dale to the public property behind his backyard fence.
"This is over the top! Don't take pictures of my kids, my wife," Ford said during a television interview, "Enough is enough!"
According to Ford the reporter was a football field away from the requested TRCA property and on private land. A neighbour stated that Ford was 'so upset' over the matter.
Constable Wendy Drummond, Toronto Police Services, said during a phone interview that there are no charges laid at this time. The case in under investigation.
Councillor Joe Mihevc asked an interesting question on the matter from last night, "Should Ford be charged for the attempted assault of Daniel Dale?" considering the confrontation took place not on Ford's property but on public land.
Mihevc said that the frosty relationship between the Toronto Star and Mayor Ford is totally abnormal. This latest incident is "his (Ford's) way of declining the press."