So-called “blind” trust is a sham as Premier Ford still knows 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 Commissioner to issue public guidelines for key ethics rules, and to recommend strongly that key, unethical loopholes be closed
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it sent to Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake calling on him to update Premier Ford’s financial interests disclosure statement immediately, and also impose further conditions on his trust for his family business, and call for key changes to close huge loopholes in the province government’s ethics law.
According to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, Premier Ford’s family company changed its name to Deco Flexible Packaging Ltd. on August 9, 2019. As well, Premier Ford’s June 7, 2018 Public Disclosure Statement says that he was earning a salary from Deco Adhesive Products (1985) Limited, and from Deco Labels & Tags Ltd.
The Premier is required by subsection 20(4) of the Members’ Integrity Act to update the Integrity Commissioner within 30 days after a change in his and his spouse’s and dependants’ financial interests, and the Integrity Commissioner is responsible for preparing and posting MPPs’ statements in the Public Registry. Accurate statements are key for government officials, the public and the media to be able to monitor for conflicts of interests.
“Premier Ford’s financial interests statement says he is receiving a salary from family businesses under their old company names, and if he failed to update the Integrity Commissioner about the name and any salary changes he should be found guilty of violating the provincial government’s ethics law,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “If Premier Ford did update the Integrity Commissioner about the name change and any salary changes, then the Integrity Commissioner should have updated Premier Ford’s statement immediately.”
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 subsection 12(2) of the Act (referring to clause 11(3)(1)), Commissioner Wake must approve the provisions of any trust to ensure it will actually prevent conflicts of interest.
“A so-called blind trust for Premier Ford doesn’t do anything to prevent him from helping his family companies because he knows that he owns the companies, and he receives updates from his family and trustee about 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 as part of the provisions of Premier Ford’s trust 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 and allows them, the Premier and Cabinet ministers 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.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Email: [email protected]
Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign