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Democracy Watch calls on Ontario Integrity Commissioner to investigate Premier Ford for accepting family gifts from lobbyists and developers at stag-and-doe party

If Commissioner rules gifts were illegal, then Ford may have also violated ethics law by participating in decision to allow Greenbelt developments

Integrity Commissioner negligently issued an opinion about the party without even investigating – has a lapdog record of very weak enforcement

Thursday, February 23, 2023

TORONTO – Today Democracy Watch sent a letter to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David J. Wake calling on him to investigate and rule whether Premier Ford violated the provincial government ethics law when his family accepted benefits from lobbyists and property developers who were invited to his daughter’s stag-and-doe party in August 2022, and who seek favourable decisions from Ford’s Cabinet. The letter summarizes the details.

Commissioner Wake negligently issued an opinion clearing the party based only on information provided by, and claims made by, Premier Ford. Based on a Global News report about the party and Commissioner Wake’s opinion, there is no evidence that Commissioner Wake asked Premier Ford who invited the lobbyists and developers to the party, nor exactly what the invitations requested in terms of donations to Ford’s daughter, nor whether any lobbyist donated any of the prizes party attendees could win. It is also negligent for the Commissioner not to make the opinion available in full on his website.

It is a violation of the provincial Members’ Integrity Act to accept a “fee, gift or personal benefit that is connected directly or indirectly with the performance of his or her duties of office.” (subsection 6(1)) and only basic gifts or benefits that MPPs receive when attending public community events are allowed according to the Commissioner’s own guideline.

The Commissioner’s own guideline webpage states that: MPPs should avoid circumstances where a reasonable person might conclude that a gift or benefit was given with an intention to influence them in carrying out their duties.”

The Commissioner’s guideline also says to check with the Commissioner’s office before accepting a gift, and MPPs are also required to file a disclosure form with the Commissioner within 30 days after receiving any gift or benefit worth more than $200 (subsections 6(3) and (4)). Premier Ford only sought the Commissioner’s opinion five months after the party was held, and there is no mention in the Commissioner’s statements reported by the media about Premier Ford disclosing anyone or any entity giving more than $200 through the party, nor does Ford’s 2022 financial disclosure form list any gifts or benefits.

Commissioner Wake’s opinion that it was fine that lobbyists and property developers who seek favourable decisions from the Ford Cabinet paid for and attended the party (and may have donated above the ticket price) was based on:

  1. The ridiculous conclusion that Premier Ford didn’t know about the gifts (he knew the party had a ticket price, and he knew who attended the party, so he knew they paid the ticket price);
  2. The irrelevant ground that the property developers are friends of the Ford government (there is no exception for accepting gifts and benefits from friends if they are lobbyists or are seeking favourable decisions from your Cabinet), and;
  3. The irrelevant ground that no government business was discussed at the party (the lobbyists, developers and Ford could easily discuss government business after the party).

While it has been confirmed by the Toronto Star that property developers with a stake in developing the Greenbelt attended the wedding of Premier Ford’s daughter, including some who sat with Premier Ford at the wedding, it has not been confirmed whether they paid the ticket price and/or made a donation above the ticket price for the stag-and-doe party.

If any Greenbelt developers did pay or donate to attend the party, Commissioner Wake should not only find that Premier Ford violated the gift rules in the MIA, he should also find that Ford participating in the decision to open the Greenbelt to development violated the rules in the MIA that prohibit “improperly” furthering the interests of anyone or any entity (sections 2-4).

Commissioner Wake has a very weak enforcement record:

  1. He let off Premier Ford even though he participated in the decision to appoint his old friend Ron Taverner as OPP Commissioner, and as an executive at the Ontario Cannabis Store;
  2. He also let off members of Ford’s staff even though he had clear evidence they gave Taverner preferential treatment in violation of the rules;
  3. He let off Ford even though he appointed his campaign adviser and staffperson Jenni Byrne to the Ontario Energy Board, and appointed his family lawyer to chair the Public Accountants Council, and;
  4. He has let off dozens of lobbyists for clear violations of Ontario’s lobbying law (Democracy Watch is currently challenging those rulings on lobbyists in court).

“Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner should not have rolled over like a lapdog and approved, without even investigating, the gifts and money Premier Ford and his family received from lobbyists and developers who attended his family’s party,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Commissioner Wake should conduct a full investigation, and if he finds that property developers with Greenbelt connections provided any gifts or benefits to the Ford family, he should also find that Premier Ford violated the ethics law by participating in the decision to open up the Greenbelt to development.”

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign, Money in Politics Campaign and Stop Secret, Unethical Lobbying Campaign