A second board member of Ontario’s regional transit authority is lobbying for a consortium seeking to build a Toronto casino, forcing him to recuse himself from discussions about the impact of a gambling resort on transit and traffic congestion.
TD Securities vice-chairman Doug Turnbull immediately told his boss at Metrolinx, Robert Prichard, when he signed on as an adviser to MGM Resorts International. Mr. Prichard has declared his own potential conflict as a lobbyist for U.S. casino giant MGM. In his role as chairman, Mr. Prichard is the arbiter of ethics at Metrolinx.
Mr. Turnbull registered as a lobbyist for Nevada-based MGM last August, less than a month after Mr. Prichard’s name appeared on the Ontario registry.
“He unilaterally declared his conflict,” Mr. Prichard said in an interview on Wednesday. “I didn’t have to give him any advice.”
Mr. Turnbull said in an e-mail response to The Globe and Mail that he told Mr. Prichard that TD Securities would “play an integral role” providing financial advice to MGM and its Canadian partner, real-estate developer Cadillac Fairview.
“I asked that I be excluded from any Metrolinx board discussions or decision regarding this proposed development, should they occur,” Mr. Turnbull said.
In Mr. Prichard’s case, it was Ontario’s conflict of interest commissioner, Mr. Justice Sidney Linden, who advised him to excuse himself from any meetings at Metrolinx related to transportation and a casino, as well as any meetings at MGM involving transit planning.
But for everyone else who works at Metrolinx, Mr. Prichard is in charge of conflict-of-interest matters as the agency’s ethics executive. He could have sought Judge Linden’s advice if he was unsure about how to handle the situation involving Mr. Turnbull, but Mr. Prichard said that was not necessary.
“It was simply straightforward,” he said. “If there were ever an issue at Metrolinx involving transit and the casino file, [Mr. Turnbull] would not participate in any discussion.”
No other Metrolinx directors have registered as lobbyists in connection with the casino file, according to the registry, and Mr. Prichard said he is not aware of any other potential conflicts.
Metrolinx’s 15 board members, including Mr. Prichard, work part-time and are paid a per diem for attending meetings. “Each of us have other lives,” Mr. Prichard said, “from architecture to planning to finance.”
He registered as a lobbyist for MGM in his capacity as chairman of Torys LLP, a Toronto law firm. MGM and Cadillac Fairview are proposing to build a gambling complex at Exhibition Place that includes new transit and lakeside paths.
Torys is not involved in lobbying Toronto city councillors, Mr. Prichard said. He will lobby officials at Ontario’s lottery corporation if Toronto city councillors give a downtown casino the green light next month.
Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray defended Mr. Prichard on Wednesday after opposition members criticized the Metrolinx chief for signing on as a casino lobbyist.
“We try not to interfere with arm’s-length organizations, but we do expect them to follow the legislative conflict-of-interest rules … and Mr. Prichard and Metrolinx have been following those rules,” Mr. Murray told reporters.
In Question Period, New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns said traffic gridlock is one of the “pressing issues” for a casino at Exhibition Place. “Yet the chair of the very organization that is in charge of finding the solution … is a lobbyist for a casino in Toronto,” he said.