The Ford government could be facing an additional ethics complaint into the controversial Greenbelt land swap as another political party is preparing to ask the Integrity Commissioner of Ontario for an expanded inquiry.
Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake launched an inquiry into whether Housing Minister Steve Clark traded insider information on the Greenbelt deal before the announcement was made public — an accusation that the government has strongly denied.
The complaint was mainly based on allegations and evidence provided by incoming NDP leader Marit Stiles who pointed the finger at the CEO of the Ontario Homebuilders Association, who previously served as chief of staff to Minister Clark.
On Monday, the Ontario Liberals told Global News the party is also preparing to file a detailed complaint to the integrity commissioner about members of the Ford government and their relationship with developers.
Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said the complaint centers around “the direct relationship between the government, its ministers, other parties in the government and people who benefitted greatly from the decisions that were made.”
Fraser said the party could take another two weeks to file the complaint to guarantee that the request for an inquiry isn’t tossed out.
A similar request to investigate Premier Doug Ford alongside Minister Clark, made by Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, was declined because the complaint didn’t include evidence for the commissioner to act on.
Fraser said the Liberals are trying to avoid a similar fate.
“You’ve gotta ask the right questions, you’ve got to provide the right evidence and rationale to ensure that your complaints can be investigated,” Fraser told Global News.
The Liberal said they’ve narrowed down the complaint to “individuals currently in government” but couldn’t confirm whether Premier Ford would be the subject of the request.
It’s unclear what, if any, penalties would be handed down if the integrity commissioner determined that portions of the Members’ Integrity Act were breached.
A spokesperson for the commissioner said there could be four outcomes including: no penalty; a reprimand; that the member’s right to vote in the Ontario legislature could be suspended; and that the member’s seat could be declared vacant.
“If the Commissioner recommends that a penalty be imposed, the Legislative Assembly may approve the recommendation and order that the penalty be imposed, or may reject the recommendation, in which case no penalty will be imposed,” the spokesperson added.
With Premier Ford commanding an 83 seat majority, a legislature-imposed sanction on a sitting member of the government could easily be swatted down.
On Friday Premier Ford defended his Housing Minister and said he’s “confident no one gave anyone a heads-up.”
Ontario’s Auditor General has opened a value-for-money probe into the sale of Greenbelt lands.
The Ontario Provincial Police has yet to reveal whether it will launch a full-scale investigation.
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