In the early morning hours Tuesday Toronto City Councillor Ana Bailao was pulled over by the police for not having on her headlights. By the time it was over Bailao was charged with impaired driving.
She has stated that she plans on pleading not guilty to the charges.
Bailao appears to have the support of her fellow councillors but many in the public are outraged. MADD's CEO Andrew Murie told the Toronto Star:
“It sends a message to the Toronto public — which I can tell you that constituents do not support — that it’s okay to drink and drive in Toronto and it’s a mistake if you get caught,” said Andrew Murie. “To be blunt, I think it’s deplorable.”
According to the police Bailao was stopped at Bathurst and Harbord Streets at 1:47 a.m. Tuesday. She had been spotted at 1:43 a.m. driving without her headlights on and took four minutes to pull over. She was charged with impaired driving and driving with a blood alcohol level of 80 mg per 100 ml of blood.
Bailao had been at least one event that evening where alcohol was served, the Mayor’s Ball for the Arts. It is said that she left the event at 10:00 p.m. Monday night. It is possible she also attended another event at the Thompson Hotel but that has yet to be confirmed.
On Wednesday Bailao said to the media that the charges will not affect her from doing the job she was elected to do. The announcement was set up by Mayor Rob Ford's press secretary with the councillor flanked by Councillors Pam McConnell and Frances Nunziata. Councillor Doug Ford has publicly stated that 'everyone makes mistakes' and that Bailao will continue to serve her constituents.
As long as Bailao does not go to jail she can serve out her term. City Councillors do not lose their seat if they are convicted of a crime.
Bailao is popular in her ward and at City Hall. She plays down the middle, a spot that makes those on the left and right both want.
Councillor Paula Fletcher has stated that the arrest is a wake up call to politicians who are often required to attend events that include alcohol.
Fletcher is right, those in public office are often at events where they are expected to have a glass of wine or cocktails. Ford is also right that everyone makes mistakes. Putting driving while intoxicated in the realm of 'making a mistake' though sends a message that it's 'just one of those things'.
Drunk driving isn't just a mistake, it's taking the lives of others into your hand. As a public servant means having to always be above the law and leading the way. If you indulge it means taking a cab, having a driver or using public transportation to get home. There are no excuses, no "I had a bad night" that can justify breaking the law in this manner.
Bailao has been a hard working councillor for her ward but that doesn't make the charges any less. With City Hall standing behind her it's sending out a message to those in Toronto that when you commit a crime it's more about who you are and who you know than right and wrong. Is this the message that Toronto wants the public to really have?
Bailao is scheduled to appear in court on December 3.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com