The report from the Integrity Commissioner on the conduct of the former Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark, will likely be tabled at the Ontario Legislature on Monday 25 September 2023 – the first day back after the summer recess. 

The Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, is asking the Legislature to reprimand Clark for breaching sections 2 and 3(2) of the Members’ Integrity Act 1994 and specifically for his failure:

“to oversee an important initiative in his ministry which led to some developers being alerted to a potential change in the government’s position on the Greenbelt with the result that their private interests were furthered improperly.” 

Wake went on:

“It may seem incredible that Minister Clark would have chosen to stick his head in the sand on such an important initiative being undertaken by his ministry but I believe that was exactly what he did.” 

Procedural fancy dancing

MPPs have 30 days to consider and respond to the report. But there is a good chance the Government will try to get it out of the way ASAP with some procedural fancy dancing. We should be on guard for Ford shenanigans.

I want to hear from the evasive Clark himself. I expect him to be contrite, not sullen and resentful at being found out. 

A million questions are still crying out for answers.

How often was he briefed on matters by his Chief of Staff, the untrained and unsupervised Ryan Amato? How often did they talk to each other? Every day? Once a week? And what did they talk about? The weather? The hapless fall guy, Ryan Amato, insists he would be vindicated in a fair investigation. In his resignation letter he says:

“I am confident that I have acted appropriately, and that a fair and complete investigation would reach the same conclusion.”

Is that Clark’s view?

What will Clark’s Progressive Conservative colleagues do with the Commissioner’s recommendation? There is a huge PC majority in the Assembly. They can approve it or they can reject it and, either way, that would be the end of the matter. There is no appeal. But people are watching to see which way Ford jumps.

Last report considered 14 years ago 

There have been 16 previous reports from the Integrity Commissioner which found contraventions of the Members’ Integrity Act or parliamentary convention. 

The full list of all Integrity Commissioner reports is here

Some, such as the 2018 report on former PC leader, Patrick Brown (who was recommended to be reprimanded) did not proceed as he had left the legislature. Despite the serious nature of his violations of the Act the Teflon coated Brown bounced back to become Mayor of Brampton.

Of the 16 reports only four of these were considered by the Legislative Assembly.

The Four Reports

On 3 July 1997 there was a debate and a motion to refer the report on Allan Leach to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly. The Committee went on to recommend the Legislature adopt the report of the Integrity Commissioner. (Open the page and type “Integrity” into the search box to take you to the debate)

On 2 March 2006, again after a debate, the Assembly carried a motion to approve the Integrity Commissioner’s recommendation on Harinder Takhar. This was the first reprimand ever issued to a Cabinet Minister.

On 21 November 2006, again after debate, the recommendations of the Integrity Commissioner concerning Robert Runciman were approved. 

And on 5 March 2009, but this time with no debate, MPPs accepted the report of the Integrity Commissioner concerning Ted Chudleigh and approved the recommendations.

More to come

The twin reports from the Integrity Commissioner and the Auditor General provide the backdrop to the debate I hope to see in the Legislature. But, astonishingly, there is still much more to come out. We wait for a report on Ryan Amato which is currently with the Integrity Commissioner. And Southlake hospital in Newmarket still insists it has no records of the developer, Michael Rice, gifting to it prime agricultural land in the Greenbelt for a new hospital campus. Do they take us all for fools? (We wait the result of appeals to the Information and Privacy Commission.)

Steve Clark’s reprimand (if we get one) will be cold comfort to the tenant farmers on the former Greenbelt lands at Bathurst who are now being evicted to make way for asphalt and concrete and yet more urban sprawl.

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Update on 21 September 2023: From the Globe and Mail: Second Cabinet Minister resigns in Greenbelt Scandal. And from the Toronto Star: Doug Ford to face reporters Thursday after second Cabinet Minister resigns. And again from the Star: Khaleed Rasheed, Cabinet Minister in Ford Government, resigns after Greenbelt probe. And from CTV