WYNNE IS RIGHT: FORD SHOULD CALL IN POLICE
Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford “needs to bring in the police” to probe questions surrounding the legitimacy of an unknown number of his candidates, Kathleen Wynne said here Thursday.
The Liberal leader was speaking to students at St. Lawrence College, after which she held a brief scrum with reporters. She was asked about media reports that at least one Tory candidate was linked to a theft of customer data for the 407 private highway.
The story, revealed Wednesday by the National Post, was about a former PC candidate, Brampton East’s Simmer Sandhu, who abruptly withdrew from the race that day, an hour after the company that operates the toll road, 407 ETR Concession Company, announced that some private information of 60,000 customers was being investigated as an “internal theft.”
Sandhu said “anonymous allegations” had been made about him, regarding both his job at 407 ETR Concession Company and his nomination, and that while he was confident he’d be cleared, it would be impossible to continue as a candidate.
But the Post’s Tom Blackwell also saw what appeared to be some of the stolen data, which itself appeared linked to another PC operative, suggesting it may have been used to help other candidates secure nominations. By midday Thursday, radio station Newstalk 1010 in Toronto was reporting that its sources said the data may have been used, even allegedly paid for, by more than two dozen Tory candidates.
“If we believe this situation … that they (candidates) relied on stolen personal data to secure their nominations, it’s a very disturbing question,” Wynne said.
“Doug Ford is aspiring to lead the province and I think, I actually think, there’s only one course and that is complete transparency and honesty. I think he needs to bring in the police. I think he needs to share everything that’s known, open up every corner of the campaign to examination and then to offer a complete public accounting. I think that’s actually the only way forward.” Wynne acknowledged that Ford may well have “inherited” the problem, whatever its scope, from his predecessor, Patrick Brown. “I get that,” she said, “but I still think there has to be an examination of what went on.” In the wake of Brown’s sudden resignation earlier this year, amid allegations of sexual misconduct (which fell far short of any alleged criminal behaviour), the party found itself rudderless with an election imminent. Other allegations surfaced too, of bullying and mismanagement. Veteran MPP Vic Fedeli, for one brief period a contender for Brown’s job, was instead appointed as interim leader and cleanup man. He pronounced that he would “root out the rot” and then several weeks later, announced that he had.
Yet as recently as last month, explaining why he had appointed 11 candidates, Ford said he’d inherited a total “mess” from Brown.
The issue, if not a full-blown scandal, appears on the horizon as a gift for Wynne’s Liberals, by most polls last in the race, in third behind the New Democrats and with Ford solidly out front. Coupled with other more banal difficulties — paid actors appearing as supporters at one candidate’s rally and Ford’s own peek-a-boo campaign style with the media — the story raises the spectre of a party unable to conduct an election, let alone run the province.
And such things can breathe life into faltering battles. Until Wynne held her little scrum Thursday, it was an otherwise ordinary day on the campaign, filled with short “remarks,” photo opportunities and grip-and-grins with students.
As a colleague says, for Ford to be put in the position of having to defend the decisions and problems of his party is akin to a hockey club ahead by two goals going into the third period with a protect-the-lead mentality. Sometimes, it works. But as often as not, it backfires. Ford said as soon as he learned about the data theft, “We acted immediately … we’re doing an internal investigation.”
Just this once, he might want to take Wynne’s advice. This isn’t the first time complaints have been made about how the Ontario Tories run their shop; Ford himself was critical of the voting system that gave him the leadership.
Police forces stopped investigating the alleged misconduct of their own members decades ago, not because they weren’t capable of conducting such things, but because of how it looked. And if the Tories don’t want this thing to spin out of control, they ought to have some other body have a look.
Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne on the campaign trail in Ottawa on Thursday.