Windsor Star - - CITY + REGION - CHRISTIE BLATCH­FORD cblatch­ford@post­media.com

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.


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