Hours after it was reported that provincial appointees and a lobbyist joined land developers as guests at Premier Doug Ford's daughter's wedding, Ontario's official Opposition asked the province's integrity commissioner to launch a full investigation into the event and the $150-per-person stag and doe before it.
By midday on Thursday, hours after submitting her request to Ontario's Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, NDP leader Marit Stiles said she hadn't heard whether or not he will investigate.
A spokesperson for the commissioner's office didn't immediately respond to questions The Trillium sent about Stiles' complaint on Thursday.
The premier's office notified Wake's office months after the stag and doe and wedding in late January, and only after a journalist now working for The Trillium asked the premier's office questions about the events, seeking the commissioner's opinion on whether Ford breached MPPs' ethics law. Based only on information Ford's office provided, including that he "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 returned an opinion to Ford, saying that nothing indicated he broke the Members' Integrity Act, according to the commissioner's spokesperson.
Referring to the commissioner's opinion since then, Ford has said he's been "cleared." The commissioner hasn't fully investigated the events, however, and can only do so if asked to by an MPP.
The integrity commissioner tends to decide whether to investigate an MPP within days to weeks after being asked.
"Over the last several weeks, concerning details have come to light about developers and lobbyists with donor and political ties to Premier Doug Ford and the Ontario PC Party being invited to participate in two Ford family events," Stiles said in her letter to Wake. "The premier is obligated to avoid conflict and the appearance of conflict."
"Given this, I am requesting an opinion on whether the premier has acted improperly with respect to these events."
Stiles asked Wake to investigate whether Ford broke three separate parts of the Members' Integrity Act, including those pertaining to conflict of interest, influence, and the receiving of gifts.
She's also asked the commissioner to determine whether Ford violated MPPs' ethical principles that say members "act with integrity and impartiality that will bear the closest scrutiny" and should "perform their duties of office and arrange their private affairs in a manner that promotes public confidence" in their integrity.
Speaking to reporters at Queen's Park after the last question period of the week, Stiles said "it's really important that the premier of this province holds himself to a higher degree of accountability and conduct than your average person."
"He's not your average father of the bride," she said, echoing things she said earlier in the week in the legislative chamber.
On Thursday morning, Stiles released only her letter publicly, saying she's waiting for Wake to decide whether he'll investigate before she releases the "detailed affidavit," she said.
The NDP leader did, however, table her complaint to the integrity commissioner in the legislature, making it public later that afternoon. It includes her letter, a six-page affidavit, and a 91-page compilation of documents that includes Ford's daughter's wedding seating chart, minister's zoning orders (MZOs) benefiting developers who attended, and a collection of news articles.
Stiles' affidavit relies largely on information that's been reported about the stag and doe and wedding, including that developers and lobbyists were invited and attended, and that attendees of the stag and doe paid a $150 admission fee to be there.
It remains unclear if the integrity commissioner's opinion from late January was informed by Ford's office disclosing the $150 admission fee to the Aug. 11 stag and doe, which the premier has since confirmed.
The integrity commissioner's office's spokesperson told the Toronto Star that it won't be disclosing any more information than it already has about the opinion given to Ford. The commissioner's office needs consent from the MPP seeking an opinion to release any details unless it's part of a criminal investigation. Journalists asked Ford if he'd release it, and he didn't answer.
Stiles said she has asked the commissioner to determine whether attendees' $150 admission payments, which Ford's office has told The Canadian Press were handled by the premier's son-in-law and his friends, qualify as an inappropriate gift.
The NDP leader wouldn't say on Thursday how Ford should respond if he's found to have violated the ethics law.
"I really don't want to predetermine the outcome of this," Stiles said.
This week was the first that MPPs sat in the legislature in 2023, and Stiles asked questions about Ford's daughter's wedding festivities in each of the three question periods that were held.
Ford and Government House Leader Paul Calandra, who often responds to questions directed at the premier, repeatedly dismissed Stiles' questions as personal attacks and avoided directly answering them.
"Will the premier fully co-operate with this investigation?" Stiles asked at the start of question period on Thursday, which started about an hour after she published her letter to Wake.
Calandra responded by calling Stiles' complaint a "drive-by smear" of the premier. Ford was at Queen's Park on Thursday but didn't attend question period.
The stag and doe held ahead of Ford's daughter's wedding, which Global News first reported on Feb. 9, took place on Aug. 11. Ford has called attendees of this event, along with the Sept. 25 wedding, personal family friends.
The developers who attended Ford's daughter's wedding included Mario Cortellucci, Shakir Rehmatullah, and Carmine Nigro, the Star reported.
Cortellucci's family's companies have benefited from at least four MZOs that fast-track development since the Ford government was elected; Rehmatullah is one of the developers who stands to benefit from the Ford government's Greenbelt land swap; and Nigro, the former vice-chair of the PC Party's fundraising arm, is chair of the Ontario Place Corporation and the LCBO, and is president and CEO of Craft Development Corp., which has benefited from a Ford government-issued MZO, which the Star reported.
Ford's office identified six specific developers, coming from the initial late January media request, as among those who were invited and attended the wedding festivities, the integrity commissioner's spokesperson has said.
Ford's office did not tell the integrity commissioner about other wedding guests whose attendance at the wedding the Star reported on Thursday morning. These guests included Nico Fidani-Diker, a former political aide of Ford and his late brother Rob, who's now a lobbyist for a developer pushing the province to redesignate Greenbelt land to build homes, and who Stiles names in the section of her affidavit highlighting "potential for conflict of interest or appearance thereof."