So-called “blind” trust would be a sham as Premier Ford would still know he owns the companies, and he tried to help clients of his family company when he was a Toronto city councilor – strong fairness monitor and regular audits needed
DWatch also calls on Integrity Commissioner to reinforce key ethics rules, and to recommend strongly that key, unethical loopholes be closed
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
OTTAWA – Democracy Watch released the letter it sent today to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake calling on him to disclose the financial interests of Premier Ford and his ministers immediately, given that more than four months have passed since the Cabinet was formed.
“Premier Ford and his ministers have made many significant decisions in the past few months, and because their financial interests remain a secret no one can tell if they have profited from their decisions,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Integrity Commissioner has had the financial information of the Premier and his ministers for more than two months, and there is no justification for any further delay in disclosing their financial interests.”
Democracy Watch’s letter also calls on Commissioner Wake to use his powers under the Members’ Integrity Act (“Act”) to require Premier Ford to do much more than set up a so-called “blind” trust for his family companies in order to prevent conflicts of interest.
Under section 13 of the Act, Commissioner Wake must approve any trust or other arrangement to ensure it will actually prevent conflicts of interest. The approval, and the details of the trust or other arrangement, must be published in the public registry.
“A so-called blind trust for Premier Ford won’t do anything to prevent him from helping his family companies because he will still know that he owns the companies, and so the Integrity Commissioner must impose other strong enforcement measures to ensure Premier Ford and his family’s companies and their clients don’t profit from his or his Cabinet’s decisions,” said Conacher.
Democracy Watch called on Commissioner Wake to require a fairness monitor for all government policy-making processes and transactions that directly or indirectly affect Premier Ford’s family companies and/or clients of the companies.
Democracy Watch also called on Commissioner Wake, or the fairness monitor, to conduct regular audits of all communications of Premier Ford and staff in his office, to ensure they don’t try to influence decisions to favour his companies or their clients.
These measures are needed not only because Premier Ford’s conflicts of interest won’t be prevented without them, but also because Premier Ford was found guilty of violating Toronto’s ethics code for trying to help his company’s clients when he was a councilor.
“Premier Ford’s past record of violating government ethics rules makes it clear that strict and strong extra measures are needed to ensure he doesn’t try to profit from his decisions as premier,” said Conacher.
Democracy Watch’s letter also calls on Commissioner Wake to confirm with a clear, strong, public statements that key rules set out in the Preamble of the Act are enforceable. The rules require all MPPs to perform their duties and arrange their private affairs “in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of each member” and to “to act with integrity and impartiality that will bear the closest scrutiny.”
Finally, Democracy Watch’s letter calls on Commissioner Wake to issue a clear, strong, public statement calling on the Ontario legislature to change the Act to ban so-called blind trusts because they are a charade (as the Parker Commission recommended in 1987), and to close a huge loophole that means the Act doesn’t apply to 99% of the decisions of MPPs, so they, the Premier and Cabinet ministers, are allowed to take part in decisions even when they will profit from the decision.
“Ontario’s ethics law for politicians has huge loopholes that must be closed or it will continue to be almost impossible to be in a conflict of interest that violates the law,” said Conacher. Democracy Watch plans to send another letter soon to Commissioner Wake listing all the loopholes in the Act that he should be calling to be closed.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign