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Democracy Watch calls on Ontario Integrity Commissioner to issue public rulings on Dean French violating provincial ethics law with appointments of family members and friends

If Integrity Commissioner’s investigation finds Premier Ford participated in appointments, should issue ruling that he also violated the law

Thursday, June 27, 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 Premier Ford’s former Chief of Staff Dean French providing preferential treatment to family members, friends, and friends of Premier Ford and the PC Party, in government appointment processes, which would violate the provincial government ethics law.

Democracy Watch’s letter also calls on Commissioner Wake to investigate whether Ford violated the ethics law by participating in the appointment processes, and by failing to promote ethical conduct by Mr. French.

As reported recently in the media (here, here and here), two of Mr. French’s family members, three of his family’s friends, and Rob Ford’s former chief of staff, and the former president of the PC Party, were all appointed in the past several months to Ontario government jobs.

Dean French resigned last Friday, two of the appointments were withdrawn, and one of the other appointees resigned. However, Dean French is still covered by the ethics law that the Integrity Commissioner enforces as some rules apply to former staff of ministers, and it would be a travesty to let him off the hook just because he has left his position.

“It will be simply negligent if the Integrity Commissioner refuses to issue a public ruling on these appointments just because Dean French has resigned and a couple of appointments have been withdrawn. A full investigation and public ruling is needed to determine whether Mr. French was acting on his own or with the approval of Premier Ford, said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. Hopefully, the Integrity Commissioner will do the right thing and issue a public ruling on all the appointments of people connected to Dean French to make it clear to the Premier’s staff and the staff of all Cabinet ministers that even if they leave their position they will not escape accountability for violating government ethics rules.”

All public servants in the Ontario government, including ministers’ staff and the Secretary to the Cabinet, are prohibited by regulations under the Public Service of Ontario Act 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…”

Premier Ford, like all ministers, is prohibited from taking part in decisions when he could “improperly” further another person’s interests, and is required to ensure his staff are informed about the ethics law, and to promote ethical conduct by his staff.

See the Details on the Ontario Government Ethics Law and Regulations set out below.

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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

Details on the Ontario Government Ethics Law and Regulations

As summarized on the website of Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake, ministers’ staff, including the Secretary to the Cabinet who is the Premier’s deputy minister, are subject to various ethics measures by the Public Service of Ontario Act (the “Act” – sections 2, 4, 66 to 69 and 94 to 98) and a regulation under that Act (O.Reg. 382/07).

Section 6 of the regulation prohibits giving “preferential treatment to any person or entity” and requires ministers’ staff to “endeavour to avoid creating the appearance that preferential treatment is being given to a person or entity…”

Part II of the regulation applies to public servants even if they resign or are fired, and so the Integrity Commissioner is a watchdog over them even after they are no longer in their government job.

Section 67 of the Act requires Premier Ford and other ministers to ensure their staff are familiar with the ethics rules, and to promote ethical conduct by his staff.

Premier Ford has the power to penalize his staff for violations of the ethics rules under section 70 of the Act.

As well, the Preamble (in conjunction with parliamentary conventions), along with sections 2 and 4 of the Members’ Integrity Act, prohibit Premier Ford from making or influencing a decision that “improperly” furthers another person’s private interest.

This is the eighth complaint Democracy Watch has filed about Premier Ford’s appointments. It was the first to file a complaint about Ford’s attempt to appoint his close friend Ron Taverner as head of the OPP, and also filed a complaint to the Integrity Commissioner about Dean French’s preferential treatment of Taverner and others (and filed another complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman about this same preferential treatment by French) and a complaint about Premier Ford trying to hand an Ontario Cannabis Store executive job to Taverner. Democracy Watch has also filed complaints with the Integrity Commissioner about Ford’s appointment of Conservative campaign adviser Ian Todd as Ontario’s Trade Representative in Washington, and about Ford’s appointment of his campaign adviser and senior staffperson Jenni Byrne as a member of the Ontario Energy Board, and a complaint about Ford’s appointment of his family lawyer Gavin Tighe to the Public Accountants Council.