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Rich Franklin, right, of Cincinnati, Ohio, hits Chuck Liddell, of Santa Barbara, Calif., during UFC 115 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Saturday June 12, 2010. (Darryl Dyck)
Rich Franklin, right, of Cincinnati, Ohio, hits Chuck Liddell, of Santa Barbara, Calif., during UFC 115 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Saturday June 12, 2010. (Darryl Dyck)

Critics call for investigation into mixed martial arts lobbying in Ontario Add to ...

The NDP renewed its call Friday for Ontario's integrity watchdog to investigate whether illegal lobbying played a role in the governing Liberals giving their blessing to mixed martial arts.

NDP justice critic Peter Kormos wrote a second letter to commissioner Lynn Morrison, saying there's a new development that raises questions about whether unregistered lobbying may be going on.

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The Ontario Liberal Party is advertising a $250-a-ticket fundraiser Oct. 19 hosted by former premier David Peterson and his colleague Noble Chummar, who is a registered lobbyist for Ultimate Fighting Championship, he said.

The close relationship between UFC, Mr. Chummar and Mr. Peterson raises questions given the government is developing regulations around mixed martial arts, he added.

Peterson flatly denied there was any illegal lobbying going on and called the NDP's suggestions "scurrilous."

"Factually incorrect - wrong," he said.

"It doesn't raise any questions at all. Everything we do is scrupulous, we know what the rules are, and this is just a typical NDP scurrilous, baseless allegation."

But Mr. Kormos argues an investigation is needed to assure the public that partisan fundraising events aren't being used by unregistered lobbyists to advance MMA rules that favour the industry.

The cocktail reception, which is being held at Mr. Peterson's law firm in downtown Toronto, also features cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello.

Mr. Peterson confirmed that Chummar is a registered lobbyist for UFC. But Mr. Peterson denied he has had any contact with the provincial government about MMA.

"I'm not a lobbyist," he said.

Mr. Kormos wrote to the commissioner last week following reports that individuals are lobbying the Liberal government without registering - a violation of provincial laws. The reports also suggested Peterson may have lobbied the government on behalf of UFC.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Morrison said the commissioner reviews every complaint, but the process is confidential under current legislation, so neither the complainant nor the public would be notified if any action was taken.

The Liberal government announced two weeks ago that they would open the door to MMA in 2011.

Premier Dalton McGuinty had previously dismissed the idea of allowing the often brutal combat sport, saying it wasn't a priority for Ontario families.

The surprise move to allow MMA, as well as the Liberals' recent blessing to online gambling, have raised questions about whether Mr. McGuinty will hold on to his "Premier Dad" image.

Mr. McGuinty said he reversed course on MMA because the economy is now on the mend and his government could focus on other priorities.

Money was apparently also a factor in the flip-flop on MMA.

The cash-strapped government, which ran a deficit of $19.3 billion in the last fiscal year and expects years of red ink, said one MMA event could attract up to 30,000 fans and generate up to $6 million in economic activity.

 

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