The Government today confirmed it has no plans to allow the Provincial Parliament to debate and vote on the Integrity Commissioner’s recommendation to reprimand former minister, Steve Clark, for his misconduct in the Greenbelt scandal.
I don’t know if this is unprecedented. Personally, I find it shocking.
The decision to ignore the Integrity Commissioner’s recommendation and not to put it up for debate in the Legislature strips the Ford Government of all moral authority.
It's giving the Integrity Commissioner, David Wake, a very public slap in the face.
Members' Integrity Act
Under the terms of the Members’ Integrity Act 1994, the Integrity Commissioner tells us the Legislative Assembly is required:
"to consider and respond to this report including my recommendation (to impose a reprimand) within 30 days after the day the report is laid before it”.
In his report, the Integrity Commissioner wrote:
“Minister Clark has publicly acknowledged that there were problems with the process used to remove lands from the Greenbelt but has not expressed any remorse for his own role in this affair.”
Restoring Public Trust
Doug Ford's consigliere, the slippery fast-talking Paul Calandra, wants to move on from the Greenbelt scandal just as fast as he can. As Opposition Leader Marit Stiles says, he wants to bury it.
Yet Calandra has the gall to talk about “restoring public trust”. How on earth is this possible when he won't allow a debate on his own motion?
The Government tabled a “notice of motion” accepting the Integrity Commissioner’s recommendation on 26 September 2023. It had to come up for decision within 30 days. But while the motion was debateable Ford and Calandra wanted to muzzle the House. They wanted a simple yes or no vote to agree the recommendation and move on. The Opposition, to their credit, didn’t go along with that. They insisted on a debate but they are not going to get one. We have a stalemate.
As a result of Calandra’s duplicity, the Motion in his name will continue to appear on the Order and Notices Paper for the rest of the session - a daily reminder of how low this squalid Government has sunk.
The Integrity Commissioner is preparing a report on the role of Ryan Amato, Clark's Chief of Staff, and whether he contravened the Public Service of Ontario Act 2006.
Click "Read more" below to read the exchange between Opposition Leader, Marit Stiles, and Paul Calandra
Ms. Marit Stiles: I’ll tell you, Speaker, those front-line organizations would be able to do a whole lot more if they didn’t have to do fundraising full-time.
Anyway, my question is to the Premier: On September 25, the government House leader tabled a motion to accept the report of the Integrity Commissioner into the former Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and to approve the recommendation to reprimand that former minister. The motion is still sitting there on the order paper.
To the Premier: When will this motion be debated?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply, the government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: The Leader of the Opposition will know that we had brought the motion forward for unanimous consent and it was turned down by the opposition at that time. In subsequent conversations with members on all sides, I think there has been some agreement that the former minister has accepted responsibility, and that is why he has resigned, so I have no intention of moving forward beyond that.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The supplementary question.
Ms. Marit Stiles: We both know that that unanimous consent was actually an attempt to bury the issue, bury the motion and prevent debate.
Speaker, this government is under criminal investigation by the RCMP. The RCMP has now even appointed a special prosecutor to investigate this case, including talking to witnesses this government muzzled by confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements.
But the Premier is just ignoring the commissioner’s recommendations to officially reprimand that minister for his well-documented misconduct. They are doing whatever it takes to avoid having this conversation in the public realm and in this House.
To the Premier: Why has this government refused to hold the former minister accountable for his misconduct?
Hon. Paul Calandra: It’s just the opposite, Mr. Speaker. The former minister accepted responsibility and resigned as a minister.
At the same time, there have been ample opportunities for the opposition to continue to debate on this—not only through the forum of question period, but through opposition day motions as well.
We are very committed to continuing to move forward, and not in any way, shape or form looking to avoid accountability; just the opposite. That is why the Premier asked me to ensure that we restore public trust in some of the decisions that we had made. That is why I moved to put the greenbelt back under protection and codify the boundaries under legislation, and that is why we made some reversals on 12 official plans.
We have accepted accountability for the mistakes that we made and for those decisions that did not meet the public’s faith in them.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The final supplementary.
Ms. Marit Stiles: Speaker, the Integrity Commissioner found the former minister guilty of misconduct; not incompetence, not of being a poor delegator, but misconduct—two serious breaches of the Members’ Integrity Act in relation to a massive breach of the public’s trust that is now under criminal investigation by the RCMP. But to hear the Premier or the minister talk about it, this was just a clumsy but well-intentioned mistake.
Back to the Premier: Will the Premier allow a full debate on that reprimand motion so he’ll finally understand why giving his friends preferential treatment is wrong?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members will please take their seats.
Government House leader.
Hon. Paul Calandra: In fact, just the opposite, Mr. Speaker—we’ve accepted full responsibility. We’ve accepted the recommendations of the Auditor General. That is why we moved quickly to restore the lands that had been removed from the greenbelt back into the greenbelt. That is why we’ve gone further and codified the boundaries of the greenbelt in law.
At the same time, I was unhappy and the Premier was unhappy with the process that saw some of the changes in 12 official plans. That is why I reversed those plans.
It is about working better with our municipal partners, but it’s also about ensuring that we move forward on building 1.5 million homes across the province of Ontario. We’re not going to be distracted by that mission. We’ll continue to get the job done on behalf of the people of the province of Ontario.