The Ontario integrity Commissioner has paused the investigation into circumstances around the stag-and-doe and wedding of Doug Ford’s daughter but the decision has more to do with the limitations of the Act that empowers the commissioner than anything else. J. David Wake issued the statement that arose out of a complaint by NDP leader Marit Stiles. The issue was whether or not there was an appearance of a conflict of interest because guests, many of whom were members of the development community were conveying a benefit to the premier by paying $150 to attend the event, and whatever gifts they might have made to the couple at their wedding.
Prior to the event the IC had been asked by Ford if there might be a conflict and the commissioner concluded that the guests were friends of the family of long standing and therefore their attendance did not create a conflict. But the commissioner also noted, “To a large extent, the opinion provided under section 28 is only as good as the information provided to me by the member or their staff.” Ford had insisted that he stayed away from any organization of the event and had no list of who attended and what they might have given the wedding couple. The premier also insisted that there was no government business discussed at the event.
Stiles had argued that not only must there not be a conflict but no appearance of a conflict. But the commissioner wrote that the legislation does not address “appearances of conflict.” I can understand why Ms. Stiles and many members of the public might think that. ..however this is not the case for members of provincial parliament as I discovered in one of the first reports I issued. Although the language of the Act underwent a slight change since (former Integrity Commissioner) Evans’s holding, it was not clear to me that the Legislature intended the conflict provisions of the Act to apply to the appearance of a conflict. “
He also said he was unable to make a finding based on a similar complaint filed by Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, “I reviewed the legal requirements for me to conduct an inquiry and concluded that there was insufficient material to establish reasonable and probable grounds in that case.”
He hasn’t closed the door completely on the Stiles request. He has placed it in abeyance until be can investigate her request to consider the matter under a different section of the act.
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