Bailao admission puts new focus on drunk driving
By Amber Daugherty
Toronto Councillor Ana Bailao was under fire Tuesday after a press conference held the day before in which she announced she had pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges stemming from an incident last Oct. 16.
In the fall, the Ward 18 councillor was arrested for drunk driving the night of the Mayor’s Ball for the Arts after meeting with casino lobbyists at the Thompson Hotel.
Bailao had initially said she would plead not guilty.
But at a news conference on Monday, she admitted she had in fact been drinking and driving and had entered a guilty plea in court.
The Toronto Star reported she said her blood-alcohol level was 0.13 – well over the legal 0.08 limit.
Carolyn Swinson, past chair of MADD Canada, told Humber News on Tuesday that it was very serious incident that shouldn’t be ignored.
“She has to understand she blew 0.13 which is not just a little over the limit – it’s considerably over the limit,” she said.
Bailao told media Monday at City Hall that she was ashamed of what she had done.
“I do not and have never condoned drinking and driving,” she said, “and this situation has made me intimately aware of the dangers this behavior can cause.”
Swinson said the tearful apology seemed to be sincere.
“She does seem to be fairly remorseful over what happened and realizes the consequences could have been much worse,” she said.
When asked whether she would consider resigning, Bailao said she wouldn’t, saying she has a good relationship with her community.
“The only thing I ask is for people to learn from my example,” she said.
Councillor Joe Mihevc supported Bailao. He told Humber News on Tuesday that while Bailao should have admitted what she had done earlier, at least she did do it.
“I think very few of us have led perfect lives,” Mihevc said.
And Mayor Rob Ford issued a statement Monday expressing support for Bailao.
“Ana Bailao did something wrong and she’s taken full responsibility for her actions,” Ford said. “I have faith in the justice system and the court’s decision regarding the appropriate consequences.”
The consequences for Bailao include a 12-month driving prohibition and a $1,000 fine.
On Tuesday, Globe and Mail City Hall columnist Marcus Gee took issue with Bailao’s apology, questioning the timing.
“Those words would have carried more weight if she had recognized her special role as an elected official, admitted fault at the beginning and taken the rap,” he said.
“Instead, she waited three months before having her fit of conscience and deciding to plead guilty,” Gee wrote.
Swinson said she was surprised there aren’t stricter rules for City Council members.
“They need a code of conduct in place,” she said. “I would say that they had one and if that was spelled out then maybe (Bailao) wouldn’t have done that.”