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Doug Ford won’t say if integrity commish ‘cleared’ him knowing stag guests paid $150 admission

The premier has repeatedly shielded himself from questions about the stag and doe controversy using a favourable, but not comprehensive integrity commissioner's opinion
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, front, adjusts safety glasses during a photo op at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School in Pickering, Ont., on March 8, 2023.

Premier Doug Ford won’t say whether the integrity commissioner “cleared” his daughter’s controversial stag and doe with the knowledge that guests paid $150 to attend.

He dismissed that question twice at a media availability on Wednesday, saying he's already addressed it. 

"I've addressed this a dozen times. I went to the integrity commissioner, he cleared me," Ford said. The Trillium followed up, but didn't get an answer. 

Afterwards, his deputy chief-of-staff for media relations, Ivana Yelich, said Ford's "comments stand" when asked for an answer to the same specific question.

To date, neither Ford, nor his office, has disclosed whether Ontario Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake's opinion to him about his daughter's wedding festivities was informed by what the premier has since said: that attendees of the Aug. 11 stag and doe that Ford hosted paid a $150 admission fee.

"Based on the information" the premier's staff provided about the events in late January, including that six developers, including some who've directly benefited from the Ford government's minister's zoning orders and Greenbelt changes, "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," Wake found nothing to indicate that Ford breached the Members' Integrity Act, according to the commissioner's spokesperson.

The section of that act, the ethics law for MPPs, pertaining to gifts states that an MPP "shall not accept a fee, gift or personal benefit that is connected directly or indirectly with the performance of his or her duties of office."

When questioned about the stag and doe's $150 admission in mid-February, about a week after Global News first reported on it, Ford said "the boys" took care of the money that was raised. The premier's office later told CBC that Ford was referencing his son-in-law and son-in-law's friends.

The integrity commissioner's opinion given to Ford did not follow a full investigation. When MPPs seek the integrity commissioner's opinion, the commissioner only takes into account the information they share. Wake provided 277 of these opinions to MPPs in 2021-2022, according to his office.

The Members' Integrity Act, which the integrity commissioner's work must abide by, blocks the commissioner's office from disclosing what informs an opinion, aside from what the MPP consents to being shared.

The commissioner can use more-thorough investigatory powers in an official inquiry, which has to be started at the request of another MPP.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles has asked Wake to conduct a full inquiry into whether the premier violated parts of the Members' Integrity Act pertaining to conflict of interest, influence and gifts at his daughter's wedding festivities, including the Aug. 11 stag party and the Sept. 25 wedding, which other Conservative insiders, as well as developers, attended. Wake is still considering whether or not to launch this inquiry.

Ford has repeatedly defended his daughter's Sept. 25 wedding and the Aug. 11 stag and doe as "personal" events that "friends" were invited to, on top of declaring that Wake's already "cleared" him.

Ford only notified the integrity commissioner of the events after a reporter asked the premier's office about them and the developers who attended the wedding festivities. In late January, the premier's staff provided Wake's office with certain information about the stag and doe and wedding. Ford's staff did not disclose to Wake, at least, the names of other wedding guests including a lobbyist for a company that wants to open up more Greenbelt land to build homes, plus others who have government appointments or have interests in the government's business.

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