A recent appointment to Metrolinx's board has donated thousands to the Progressive Conservatives and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, and the NDP are questioning the propriety of the appointment at a time when the provincial agency is mired in scandal over the oft-delayed Eglinton LRT project.
Mark McQueen was appointed to the Metrolinx board of directors on May 19.
According to the Elections Ontario database of political contributions, he's donated over $13,000 to the PCs and Mulroney since 2018. The donations include money given directly to the party, riding associations — such as Mulroney's York—Simcoe riding — and Mulroney's 2018 leadership bid.
McQueen ran the venture fund Wellington Financial from 2004 to 2018 and Mulroney was vice president of corporate development at the firm from 2011 to 2015.
McQueen worked as a political staffer for the federal Progressive Conservative government from May 1988 to June 1993, when Mulroney's father Brian was prime minister, according to his LinkedIn. From 1991 to June 1993, McQueen was executive assistant to the elder Mulroney's chief of staff. Prior to that, he'd worked for the associate minister of National Defence and the Treasury Board president.
Mulroney and McQueen also served on the Detroit-Windsor Bridge Authority about a decade ago.
NDP MPP Joel Harden asked Mulroney about it during Monday's question period.
"This minister has stacked the Metrolinx board with cronies, including former Conservative politicians and fundraisers. Her latest appointee is Mark McQueen, the private financier who gave the minister her first big job in Canada and has donated thousands of dollars to her and to the (Progressive) Conservative Party," Harden said.
"Why is she appointing her friends to the Metrolinx board instead of fixing the problems with the Eglinton Crosstown?"
Answers aren't exactly forthcoming during question period, and Mulroney's response was no different. The NDP were "pretending to stand up for transit riders," she said and listed a number of programs the province brought forward during the pandemic to keep transit systems afloat.
McQueen could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. Mulroney's office also did not respond to a list of questions.
His appointment isn't official just yet.
His name was submitted to the government agencies committee as an intended appointment, but the NDP has the chance to call him forward to speak about his appointment before the government can make it official.
There's nothing forcing him — or any other appointee — to show up. If a pending appointee doesn't come to the committee, they're automatically appointed after a 30-day period, unless the committee unanimously agrees to extend the deadline, which doesn't happen very often.
Not extending deadlines is "the new norm," NDP MPP Doly Begum, who sits on the committee, told The Trillium in an interview for a previous story.
Metrolinx has been fending off criticism over its handling of the Eglinton LRT project which is behind schedule and over budget.
Crosslinx Transit Solutions (CTS), the consortium building the rail line recently launched a legal challenge against Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario. CTS says Metrolinx doesn't have an operating agreement with the TTC for the yet-to-be-completed transit line, and that the TTC is providing input in the project's twilight days that go beyond CTS' contractual obligations.
"It is not tenable for CTS to continue working towards shifting standards, requirements and goalposts of project completion," CTS wrote.
The province denied this, and Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said it's an "unacceptable delay tactic" by CTS, which is "looking for new ways to make financial claims."
Mulroney's office has also been getting involved in the arm's-length agency's communications, according to documents obtained by the Toronto Star. Metrolinx has wanted to better inform the public about various projects, but her office stepped in to quash those efforts.
Mulroney's office also won't give the agency free rein to communicate without ministerial approval, according to a separate Star story.