Corruption is a spreading stain in the Ford Government.
Ford and his enablers like Paul Calandra contaminate everything they touch.
From their casual disregard for the truth to their shameless and brazen behaviour.
Calandra replaced the disgraced Steve Clark as Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister who looked the other way when his Chief of Staff, Ryan Amato, was dismantling the protected Greenbelt.
But Calandra also stays on as the Government’s business manager in the Legislative Assembly. This allows him to keep a finger on the pulse of what's happening.
Call Doug Ford on 416 325 1941
Yesterday at Queen’s Park, the Opposition Leader, Marit Stiles, asks Ford to publish his personal phone logs for a one-week period last November during the flurry of Greenbelt announcements. Through a Freedom of Information request, Global News finds out there is no evidence Ford used his Government-issue phone. So, in breach of all the rules, did the Premier use his own phone instead?
Calandra refuses to say.
The Auditor General made it clear in her report of 9 August 2023 that Ministers’ phone and email records must be kept:
“Files that relate to the development and delivery of the Government’s policy and legislative agenda, including issues under consideration by the Minister that may form part of the Government’s policy agenda, must also be retained.”
Missing the Point
Deliberately missing the point, Calandra tells us the Premier takes calls from anyone and everyone, all the time:
“The Premier has been very open with respect to how people can contact him. As I said last week, he in fact gave his phone number out in the House, publicly, for everybody to call. I know I’ve been with him, and a number of our caucus members have been with him, when he’s answering calls from constituents with respect to programs or services for people in his riding. He’s not going to stop doing that because that’s the type of person he is.”
Yes. Yes. Yes. But the Government promised to accept all the Auditor General's recommendations, including this one about phone calls and emails.
(As it happens, I called Doug Ford on 5 November 2022 on 416 325 1941. I spoke to a real person but it wasn’t Doug Ford. The Main Man didn’t get back to me. But that was no surprise. There are 14,789,778 people in Ontario)
But anyway… what about the phone logs?
While Calandra dodges the questions, those around him are clapping like trained seals.
Calandra has presided over two recent revisions of the Standing Orders at Queen’s Park. Sounds dry as dust yet these Standing Orders shape the way in which Ford’s inchoate policies become the law of the land.
In Calandra’s watch, long-standing Parliamentary conventions are quietly thrown overboard. Bills are put on the Statute Book when they are still out for public consultation.
The Auditor General tells us 35,000 responses to the Greenbelt consultation were binned, not analysed.
No Committee scrutiny
Major pieces of legislation such as the Bill dissolving Peel Region are never sent to Committee for detailed line-by-line scrutiny. This robs people who have knowledge and expertise from putting their views directly to MPPs.
Democratic conventions such as showing up for election debates have been ditched by the Progressive Conservatives.
Ford believes manifestos would be an albatross around his neck so, instead, he simply promises “to get the job done”. Whatever that is.
At the last election in June 2022, Ford did not give any hint he would allow development in the Greenbelt. A policy he put in motion as soon as the votes were counted.
Politicians v Judges
In 2018, in the tussle over the size of Toronto City Council, Doug Ford lambasted the judges, pointing out he was elected and they weren’t.
Ford meant that as a slam dunk. But it has backfired. Spectacularly.
The judges, too, have a role to play.
As Ford is now finding out.
Click “read more” below to read the exchanges yesterday between the Opposition Leader Marit Stiles and Paul Calandra. The full version is in Hansard here.
Ms. Marit Stiles: My question is to the Premier.
Every day, we find out new details about who and how this government’s insiders were involved in the greenbelt grab. Public accounts revealed that this government paid the Premier’s former principal secretary Amin Massoudi nearly a quarter of a million dollars to do the same job via his private company, Atlas. Why did the Premier hire his good friend to provide the same services but at an exorbitant pay increase?
Hon. Paul Calandra (Speaking for Ford): As you know and the Premier highlighted a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Massoudi is no longer employed by PC caucus services.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Back to the Premier: We all remember Mr. Massoudi for his participation in the infamous Las Vegas boys’ trip with greenbelt land speculator Shakir Rehmatullah. Last week, journalists asked the Premier’s office about Mr. Massoudi’s lucrative contract and a spokesperson for the Premier said that the contract has ended and he has no formal role.
When exactly did the contract with Mr. Massoudi’s firm, Atlas strategies, end?
Hon. Paul Calandra (Speaking for Ford): As I mentioned, the Premier highlighted a couple of weeks ago in Niagara Falls that that contract had ended and Mr. Massoudi is no longer working for PC caucus services.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Back to the Premier: The people of this province deserve to know the exact date this contract ended because Mr. Massoudi’s firm was registered to lobby the government on November 3, 2022. If there was an overlap, it means that a company actively lobbying the government was also writing the Premier’s speeches and drafting his communications strategy at the same time. At the very least, a close friend of the Premier got a pretty sweet gig: $230,000 for just three months of work.
Back to the Premier: Which is it?
Hon. Paul Calandra (Speaking for Ford): It’s not surprising that the member opposite is wrong. Again, as the Premier said, that contract was terminated a couple of weeks ago, as highlighted by the Premier.
Mr. Massoudi himself, I’m told, has never been registered to lobby the government. If she has a complaint, I would suggest that she take that up with the Integrity Commissioner and I’m sure he will investigate that further. But as I said, he’s no longer employed by PC caucus research services.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Back to the Premier: Government lawyers have now confirmed that the Premier routinely uses his personal devices to conduct government business. The Premier was warned by the Information and Privacy Commissioner that government business must be conducted on government devices and platforms. It’s about basic transparency. This is not new.
Why has the Premier refused to follow the commissioner’s guidance?
Hon. Paul Calandra (Speaking for Ford): The honourable member will know that this Premier has been very open with respect to how people can contact him. As I said last week, he in fact gave his phone number out in the House, publicly, for everybody to call. I know I’ve been with him, and a number of our caucus members have been with him, when he’s answering calls from constituents with respect to programs or services for people in his riding. He’s not going to stop doing that because that’s the type of person he is.
The slogan “for the people” isn’t just a slogan for us; it is at the core of what we do. Everything that we do, since 2018, has been about advancing the people of the province of Ontario, unleashing the economy. Now we’re going to tackle the housing affordability crisis that they helped create with the Liberals. It’s about doing what’s right for the people of the province of Ontario. This Premier is not going to stop doing that. This caucus won’t stop doing that. The only people getting in the way are the opposition and their partners in the Liberal Party.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Speaker, if he’s so open, why won’t he release his records?
Back to the Premier: It’s really important to remember that the commissioner’s guidance came after staff in this Premier’s office were caught using personal email accounts to arrange for the Premier’s souped-up custom van.
The people of Ontario are not going to be played for fools. Did the Premier intentionally continue to use personal devices in order to avoid freedom-of-information requests?
Hon. Paul Calandra (Speaking for Ford): This is a party that can’t even get a standing ovation right, and they expect the people of the province of Ontario to ever put confidence in them to govern. Give me a break, Mr. Speaker.
I’ll tell you what happened in the last election: We went to the people of the province of Ontario and we said that we’re going to continue to unleash the power of the economy of Ontario. Do you know why? Because it’s not only good for the people of Ontario; it’s good for all of Canada when Ontario succeeds. That’s why people from Alberta are here: because they want to see what we’re doing, and it is good for all of Canada.
So I tell the member opposite, take a look behind you. There are so many fewer NDP members in that caucus. Do you know why? Because the people of the province Ontario put their faith in a Progressive Conservative government to continue to build the economy, to tackle the housing affordability crisis and to continue a bigger, better, bolder Ontario.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Global News has requested the Premier’s personal phone logs after an FOI request found no evidence the Premier had used his government phone during a one-week period in November. Remember, this was when the government was planning for the greenbelt grab and various urban boundary expansions were being announced. The Auditor General and the Integrity Commissioner found that favoured land speculators received preferential treatment as a result of these decisions.
So to the Premier: Will his personal phone logs reveal conversations with the very land speculators who benefited from preferential treatment by this government?
Hon. Paul Calandra (Speaking for Ford): What can you do about a leader of the opposition (the NDP’s Marit Stiles) who doesn’t understand that we have a Premier who actually takes calls from Ontarians? Imagine this, Mr. Speaker: He got up in the House and gave his personal phone number out in the House on the record for everybody to call. That’s what he did. That’s probably why this caucus has grown. That’s probably why we won a larger majority than we had in 2018. But you know what the real reason is? Because we continue to focus on the priorities of the people of the province of Ontario…