Doug Ford cleared of wrongdoing after developers attend daughter's wedding party, NDP to launch complaint
Ontario's Official Opposition will file a new complaint with the province's integrity commissioner after Premier Doug Ford said Friday he was cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with developers attending and donating to a pre-wedding fundraising party for his daughter last summer.
Ford told reporters earlier in the day that it was "ridiculous" that he was facing questions over the stag-and-doe party, which he called a "personal" matter.
But in a news release Friday evening, NDP Leader Marit Stiles said there was "mounting evidence that Ford's cozy relationship with developers has crossed the line."
"These developers include the very people who directly benefited from the Ford government's decision to carve up the Greenbelt and other special favours — what exactly were they talking about at that table?" asked Stiles.
The questions came after Global News reported Thursday that developers who were personal friends of Ford attended the party, and that some expressed discomfort at being invited to the event. CBC Toronto has not independently verified that reporting.
In recent months, Ford has come under scrutiny over an about-face on development in the province's protected Greenbelt area, after it emerged several well-established developers were among the owners of the land Ford is proposing to open up for housing development, some of whom appear to be significant PC party donors.
The Ford government previously said it would not entertain proposals for development in the Greenbelt.
"This is ridiculous, to be frank with you," Ford told reporters when asked about the stag-and-doe at a news conference in Oshweken, Ont.
"I went to the integrity commissioner, he cleared it 1,000 per cent," Ford said. "It's really personal and this is my daughter's wedding and it's the first time that's ever come out in Canadian history, someone asking about someone's daughter's wedding. But anyways, it was cleared with the integrity commissioner."
Ford went to commissioner's office in January
The Office of the Integrity Commissioner told CBC Toronto on Friday that it was in January that the premier and his staff provided information to the commissioner about certain guests who attended the wedding and who may have attended the stag-and-doe party held months before. Ford approached the commissioner after a media inquiry, the office said.
"The information provided to the Commissioner was that these guests, identified as developers, are friends of the Ford family, and in some cases have been for decades," said Michelle Renaud, communications manager for the office.
"Based on the information provided to the Commissioner about the events: specifically, that the Premier had no knowledge of gifts given to his daughter and son-in-law; and, that there was no discussion of government business at either of the events, the Commissioner was of the opinion that there was nothing to indicate non-compliance with the Members' Integrity Act related to these events."
The statement adds that the integrity commissioner's opinion is "not a finding or the result of an investigation into a matter."
Rather, when the commissioner receives a request for an opinion, they assess it "using the information made available by the member."
Ford says he knows what he 'should and shouldn't do'
The commissioner's office added this sort of opinion is separate from an inquiry as to whether another MPP has contravened the act. That kind of request leads to a public report, whereas the opinion in this case leads to a confidential opinion given directly to the MPP who makes the request.
Ford defended his reversal on the Greenbelt Friday, saying the province is facing a housing crisis.
Asked which developers specifically he was personal friends with, Ford said his family has been in politics for over 30 years and is friends with hundreds of developers, private sector individuals and others.
"I know the difference of what we should and shouldn't do."
The integrity commissioner is also investigating a separate complaint from the NDP leader on what she calls the "curious timing of recent purchases of Greenbelt land by powerful landowners with donor and political ties to the Ontario PC Party" — both Ford and his housing minister deny any wrongdoing.