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Democracy Watch in court Monday challenging Ontario Integrity Commissioner’s refusal to issue public rulings on Premier Ford’s staff and deputy minister possibly violating provincial ethics rules

Integrity Commissioner’s ruling in March 2019 on OPP Commissioner appointment contained clear evidence Ford’s former Chief of Staff, deputy minister and others gave preferential treatment to Ron Taverner and others

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, September 28, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, at 10 am, the Ontario Divisional Court is holding an online hearing of the application it filed last October challenging Integrity Commissioner David Wake’s refusal to issue a public ruling on Premier Ford’s former-Chief of Staff Dean French (and possibly other Ford staff) providing preferential treatment to Ford’s friend Ron Taverner, and Mario Di Tommaso and Chris Froggatt.

The media and the public can watch the online hearing for Court case file #548-19 on YouTube at 10 am today by clicking here or going to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNkhfB2QPGw&feature=youtu.be.

Democracy Watch is arguing that the preferential treatment violated the provincial government’s ethics laws, and that the Integrity Commissioner is required to issue a public ruling on his investigation finding Mr. French and the others guilty. Democracy Watch is represented by Rebecca Shoom of the law firm Lerners LLP.

On March 25, 2019, Democracy Watch sent a letter to Integrity Commissioner Wake and then-Conflict of Interest Commissioner Sidney Linden calling on them to issue a public ruling on Ford’s staff, and also former Secretary to the Cabinet Steve Orsini, providing preferential treatment in violation of Public Service of Ontario Act (PSOA) ethics regulations.

Both commissioners refused to issue public rulings — then-Commissioner Linden in late March 2019, and Commissioner Wake in early April 2019. Commissioner Linden retired on May 1, 2019 when his office was merged into Integrity Commissioner Wake’s office. On September 30, 2019, Democracy Watch sent another letter to Commissioner Wake requesting a public ruling. Commissioner Wake responded with the same position he had expressed in April 2019.

There is nothing in the PSOA that prohibits Commissioner Wake from issuing a public ruling, and the public has a clear right to know if these public servants violated the law.

“There is clear evidence in Integrity Commissioner Wake’s ruling on the OPP Commissioner appointment process that Premier Ford’s former Chief of Staff Dean French and his former deputy minister violated Ontario government ethics rules by giving preferential treatment to Ron Taverner, and also to Mario Di Tommaso, and that French also gave preferential treatment to Chris Froggatt. Other Ford staff may have also violated the rules,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Hopefully the court will order Integrity Commissioner Wake to issue a public ruling finding Premier Ford’s staff guilty of violating provincial ethics rules.”

Commissioner Wake’s March 20, 2019 ruling on Premier Ford’s actions concerning Ron Taverner’s proposed appointment contained clear evidence that Mr. French and Mr. Orsini provided preferential treatment to Mr. Taverner in the offer of an executive job with the government’s Ontario Cannabis store, and to him and Mario di Tommaso also throughout the OPP Commissioner appointment process.

The ruling also contained clear evidence that Mr. French also provided preferential treatment to Chris Froggatt by connecting him (and him only) to give communications advice to Mr. Taverner. There was also some evidence in Commissioner Wake’s ruling that Derek O’Toole, then-Senior Policy Advisor in Premier Ford’s office, and Greg Harrington, then-Policy Advisor to Mr. French, also provided preferential treatment to Mr. Taverner.

See the Evidence from the Integrity Commissioner’s Ruling on Premier Ford that, in Democracy Watch’s view, details the extent of this preferential treatment.

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…” See the Summary of the Ontario Government Ethics Law and Regulations for details.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: info@democracywatch.ca

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