The Hamilton Spectator

Ford’s ties to developers all too cosy


Premier Doug Ford’s daughter ties the knot and among those at the wedding are developers who stand to benefit richly from recent provincial decisions on land use in the Greater Toronto Area and Golden Horseshoe. Weeks before that, developers are among the guests who attended a stag and doe party for the couple.

The two events should more than raise eyebrows. They should set off alarm bells.

Unfortunat­ely, not so for Ford. It wasn’t until January — months after the wedding festivitie­s — that the premier decided to seek the opinion of Ontario’s integrity commission­er and then only after a journalist began asking questions.

Last week, he bristled when pressed on the topic. He dismissed questions as “ridiculous.”

“I know the difference between what we should and shouldn’t do. Our family has been in politics for 30 years,” Ford said Friday.

He pointed to the findings of the integrity commission­er J. David Wake who concluded that there was no indication that the premier had run afoul of ethical guidelines.

Ford had no knowledge of gifts given to the couple and “there was no discussion of government business at either of the events,” the commission­er’s office told Torstar.

It’s important though to highlight that the conclusion­s of the integrity commission­er were based on the informatio­n that Ford himself had provided in seeking the commission­er’s opinion. This is not the result of a formal, independen­t investigat­ion.

There’s plenty wrong with this picture, in our view. Developers, described as longtime friends of the Ford family, attend the events bearing gifts. Global News reported that invitees to the stag and doe were being asked to raise money for the daughter’s wedding.

Torstar has reported that the invited wedding guests included a developer whose family’s companies have benefited from minister’s zoning orders to fast-track developmen­t and a developer who stands to benefit from the Ford government’s decision to open Greenbelt lands for housing.

It’s not then, as the premier wants to insist, a private family matter. When developers on the receiving end of favourable government decisions are mixing it up with the premier at family gatherings, that makes it a matter of public concern. Surely, after all his time in public office, Ford recognizes the potential conflict of interest.

It’s troubling then that Ford — and his office — apparently didn’t see a problem with the arrangemen­ts, the gifts or the guest list. That he didn’t see the need to get an opinion of the integrity commission­er ahead of time suggests he’s not as clear-eyed with spotting potential ethical pitfalls as he would like people to believe.

In the light of these latest revelation­s, Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles says she intends to file another complaint with the integrity commission­er to ensure that “all the facts that have now come to light are being considered.”

The controvers­ial decision to allow housing to be built on some Greenbelt lands is already the subject of two inquiries. There are concerns that developers may have been tipped to the decision to permit developmen­t on some lands ahead of time, something the province denies.

The integrity commission­er is examining whether Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark broke conflict of interest and insider informatio­n rules, and the provincial auditor is doing a value-for-money audit into the Greenbelt decision.

There’s every reason then for Ford and his government to be extra vigilant in its dealings with the developmen­t industry at a time when public faith in their decision-making on this file is already badly eroded.

In keeping with the folksy image he likes to cultivate, Ford says he has an “open-door policy” at his home, where the stag and doe event was held. It’s time he started paying attention to who’s coming in his front door. It’s all too cosy, and Ontarians are quite right to be concerned.

The two events should more than raise eyebrows. They should set off alarm bells

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