Data theft story clouds Ford tax cut

Al­le­ga­tion for­mer PC can­di­date in­volved in theft of 407 ETR info

The Welland Tribune - - Canada & World - SHAWN JEF­FORDS

Doug Ford said his party is look­ing into al­le­ga­tions that a Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date who has now re­signed was in­volved in an al­leged theft of cus­tomer data at a toll high­way op­er­a­tor — a mat­ter be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by po­lice.

Tory can­di­date Sim­mer Sandhu, who was run­ning in the rid­ing of Bramp­ton East, abruptly re­signed Wed­nes­day night, cit­ing un­spec­i­fied al­le­ga­tions about his work life and nom­i­na­tion campaign that he de­nies.

His res­ig­na­tion came shortly af­ter the 407 Ex­press Toll Route is­sued a state­ment say­ing it had no­ti­fied po­lice, the fed­eral pri­vacy com­mis­sioner and the On­tario Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion about what it called an “in­ter­nal theft of cus­tomer data.” The com­pany con­firmed Sandhu was a for­mer em­ployee.

Ford said Thurs­day he acted “im­me­di­ately” to deal with Sandhu. “I’ve al­ways made im­me­di­ate de­ci­sions, I im­me­di­ately made the de­ci­sion. We ac­cepted (Sandhu’s) res­ig­na­tion,” he said in Cam­bridge while rolling out a prom­ise to cut small busi­ness taxes by 8.7 per cent.

Ford was also asked if al­legedly stolen 407 ETR cus­tomer data may have been used by some can­di­dates to win nom­i­na­tion races. “Our party is look­ing into this,” Ford said, adding that ques­tions on other can­di­dates would have to be di­rected to them.

His spokesper­son later added that the party had asked the 407 for in­for­ma­tion and “they would not con­firm nor deny a data breach had oc­curred.”

Ford’s ri­vals said the Tory leader had much to an­swer for.

The New Democrats in par­tic­u­lar called on the prov­ince’s Chief Elec­toral Of­fi­cer to in­ves­ti­gate the al­leged theft and de­ter­mine if any of the data was used by Tory can­di­dates.

“This data, al­leged to have been taken from 407 ETR, may have been used by can­di­dates to fur­ther their elec­toral suc­cess,” said NDP pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary Karla Web­ber-Gal­lagher. “This is a vi­o­la­tion of the laws of On­tario that gov­ern how per­sonal, pri­vate in­for­ma­tion is col­lected and used.”

The 407 ETR said the per­sonal in­for­ma­tion of roughly 60,000 peo­ple was stolen from its of­fices “some time over the past 12 months.” A mem­ber of the pub­lic re­ported the al­leged theft to the com­pany last Thurs­day, said spokesper­son Kevin Sack.

Sack con­firmed that Sandhu worked in one of the com­pany’s ac­count­ing de­part­ments but left the firm in Feb­ru­ary. He could not say if Sandhu’s de­par­ture was linked to the al­leged theft.

“We’re solely fo­cused on our cus­tomers,” Sack said. “And get­ting them what they need to feel com­fort­able and con­fi­dent with our se­cu­rity and their in­for­ma­tion. So, no, I don’t have any in­for­ma­tion about al­le­ga­tions con­cern­ing (Sandhu).”

Bob Nichols, spokesper­son for the Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion, said the mat­ter is now the sub­ject of an ac­tive po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, a fact con­firmed by York re­gional po­lice.

“The Min­istry and 407 ETR take their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the pro­tec­tion of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion se­ri­ously,” he said. “407 ETR has taken ap­pro­pri­ate steps to deal with the breach.”

NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath said Ford needs to an­swer ques­tions re­lated to the al­leged data theft.

“What has Mr. Ford done as leader of the Con­ser­va­tive Party to fol­low up when it comes to the data and the breach of data,” she said. “Has he got­ten a hold of the in­for­ma­tion and pri­vacy com­mis­sioner … has he con­tacted the po­lice? ... Lots of ques­tions need to be an­swered by Mr. Ford on this is­sue.”

Speak­ing in Ottawa, Lib­eral Premier Kath­leen Wynne called the al­leged data theft “dis­turb­ing”.

“I think it’s clear that the peo­ple of On­tario need to know what the vet­ting process is for can­di­dates and how such a thing could hap­pen,” she said.

Ford also came un­der fire for at­tend­ing a party fundraiser in vi­o­la­tion of campaign rules. The Tory leader said he was “very clearly mis­in­formed,” had dis­missed the per­son or­ga­niz­ing the event and said his party was con­duct­ing an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He also said any­one who made donations re­lated to the event would get their money back.

PATRICK DOYLE THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

On­tario Lib­eral leader Kath­leen Wynne ar­rives on the O-Train at a campaign stop in Ottawa on Thurs­day. Wynne called the al­leged data theft “dis­turb­ing”.

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