Calls to Ontario’s integrity commissioner are being made in regard to two family events related to Premier Doug Ford. In recent months, he’s received pushback from critics who fear he might have violated conflict of interest in regards to recent family functions, including a stag-and-doe party for his daughter's wedding.
What's the issue?
Opposition parties are concerned about $150 tickets sold to Ford’s daughter’s stag-and-doe pre-wedding party last summer, hosted at the premier’s home, in which several developers and lobbyists were invited to attend. There are also concerns about developers and lobbyists who then attended the subsequent wedding, including those keen to open the province's protected Greenbelt. The Toronto Star reports that several guests who sat at the premier’s table at the wedding have since received government appointments.
What is Doug Ford accused of?
NEW: Ontario's NDP has asked for an official ethics investigation into Premier Doug Ford over the $150/ticket family fundraiser -- stag and doe -- that included developers and lobbyists.
The government calls it a "smear attack."#onpoli pic.twitter.com/HNfMdNv59k
— Colin D'Mello | Global News (@ColinDMello) February 23, 2023
In a letter to Ontario's Integrity Commissioner, opposition leader Marit Stiles writes of a “troubling pattern of ongoing government policy decisions benefiting particular private interests of individuals and developers with ties to” to Ford in regards to the stag-and-doe and wedding.
She says that “concerning details have come to light about developers and lobbyists with donor and political ties to premier Doug Ford and the Ontario PC Party being invited to participate in two Ford family events.The premier is obligated to avoid conflict and the appearance of conflict.”
Stiles goes on to say that some invitees felt “browbeaten” into purchasing tickets to the stag-and-doe, with some expressing concern about risking their professional reputations by being seen as “trying to gain influence by paying for his daughter’s wedding.”
Stiles also notes that several of the individuals and developers who attended the subsequent wedding have received favourable Minister’s Zoning Orders, and at least one has benefited from recent policy changes related to Greenbelt land removals. She’s asking the integrity commission to examine whether Ford breached the sections of the Members’ Integrity Act that concern conflict of interest, influence and gifts.
What are the rules?
The Conflict of Interest rules from the Office of the Integrity Commissioner of Ontario states:
Don’t benefit self, spouse or children - Public servants should not use their positions to directly or indirectly benefit themselves, their spouse or children.
Don’t disclose confidential information - Public servants should not disclose or use any confidential information without authorization.
Don’t accept gifts - Public servants should not accept gifts from anyone who (1) receives services from (2) does business with or (3) wants to do business with the Ontario government. Public servants may be able to accept gifts of nominal values that are given as an expression of courtesy or hospitality.
Don’t give preferential treatment - Public servants should not give preferential treatment and take steps to avoid creating the appearance that such treatment is being given.
What is Ford’s reaction?
Ford has denied doing anything wrong.
“In my opinion, it’s absolutely ridiculous about a $150 stag. You’ve got to be kidding me,” Ford said at a news conference on Feb. 15. Ford said his family had been in politics for years, adding that “no one can influence the Fords.” He has repeatedly stressed that the event was a family private family matter.
He initially reached out to the province’s Integrity Commissioner a few months after his daughter’s wedding events, after being asked about several of the developer guests who were invited to attend and contribute donations. Earlier this month, Ford was cleared of any wrongdoing.