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Democracy Watch calls on Ontario Integrity Commissioner to issue public ruling on LCBO Chair selling tickets to Finance Minister’s fundraising event

Public servants prohibited from even appearing to offer preferential treatment, and from political activities that conflict with their jobs

Thursday, May 9, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake calling on him to issue a public ruling on whether Carmine Nigro, Ford government-appointed Chair of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), violated public servant ethics regulations by inviting people to last night’s fundraising event for Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli, who is the minister responsible for the LCBO and dozens of provincial laws and government entities. The Globe and Mail reported on Mr. Nigro’s actions last week.

All public servants in the Ontario government, including the heads of public bodies like the LCBO, are prohibited by the Public Service of Ontario Act and related regulations from giving preferential treatment to any person or entity, and are required to “endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given to a person or entity…” (Public Service of Ontario Act sections 2 and sections 56-65, and section 6 of O.Reg. 381/07).

Exemptions exist for political activities, but only if the activity supports or opposes a political party or a candidate. The fundraising event is for a riding association, not a party, and Minister Fedeli is not currently a candidate.

Even if Commissioner Wake decides that Mr. Nigro inviting people to the event, in effect fundraising for Minister Fedeli, is a political activity, Mr. Nigro is still prohibited from any activity that is associated with his position, or conflicts with the interests of the LCBO, or interferes with his position (subsections 77(d), and 79(d) and (e) of the Act).

Given that Mr. Nigro occupies a very public, high-level government position, he cannot justifiably claim that he sent out the invitations as a private citizen. Anyone receiving the invitation knows, or could easily find out as it was covered widely in the media, that he was appointed and serves as Chair of the LCBO.

Democracy Watch’s letter also requests that the Integrity Commissioner review and rule on whether Mr. Nigro can continue any of his activities as a fundraiser for the Progressive Conservative Party and riding associations, which, according to the Globe and Mail article linked above, he participates in regularly.

“Public servants like Mr. Nigro are required to serve the public interest and avoid even the appearance of preferential treatment and conflicts of interest,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “By selling access to the Cabinet minister who oversees the government corporation he chairs, Mr. Nigro has crossed the line.”

“Hopefully Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner will do the right thing and issue a strong ruling that makes it clear you can’t further the political and financial interests of a Cabinet minister while you are a public servant,” said Conacher.

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

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign