Ontario Premier Doug Ford dismissed as “ridiculous” questions about a prewedding party held for his daughter at his house last summer to which lobbyists and developers were invited, saying the event has since been cleared by the provincial Integrity Commissioner.
Mr. Ford was responding to a report in Global News about a stag-and-doe event for his daughter, held in August. The news outlet reported that guests were asked to purchase tickets and donate money to the couple, and that guests included developers.
The Premier’s ties to the development industry have faced renewed scrutiny in recent months, after he broke previous promises and announced plans to open up parts of the protected Greenbelt lands, which arc around the Greater Toronto Area, for developers to build housing.
On Friday, Mr. Ford called the party “very private and personal to our family,” and said he doesn’t check the guest list for events at his home.
“This is ridiculous, to be frank with you,” Mr. Ford told reporters in Ohsweken, on Six Nations of the Grand River, where his government was announcing a new electricity-storage battery project. “When we have an event, I don’t ask for a list of names.”
Mr. Ford declined to identify which developers attended the party and said his daughter and her husband, who is a police officer, were private citizens.
“I know the difference of what we should and shouldn’t do. Our family’s been in politics for 30 years, we know tens of thousands of people,” he said.
Mr. Ford did take the matter to the Integrity Commissioner when a reporter asked his office questions about it last month. He said Friday that the commissioner, J. David Wake, had cleared it “1,000 per cent, not 999, 1,000 per cent.”
He criticized the media for raising the issue. “I think that’s the first time that’s ever come out in Canadian history, someone asking about someone’s daughter’s wedding,” Mr. Ford said.
Michelle Renaud, a spokesperson for the Integrity Commissioner, said in an e-mailed statement that Mr. Wake had concluded, based on information provided by the Premier and his staff, that there was “nothing to indicate non-compliance” with the Members’ Integrity Act, which bans MPPs from receiving gifts or fees related to their duties as an MPP.
She said the Premier’s office had asked for an opinion in January after a media inquiry about the party and the subsequent wedding, regarding certain guests who attended.
“The information provided to the Commissioner was that these guests, identified as developers in the media inquiry, are friends of the Ford family, and in some cases have been for decades,” Ms. Renaud said.
She said that based on the information provided by the Premier’s office, Mr. Ford “had no knowledge of gifts given to his daughter and son-in-law; and, that there was no discussion of government business at either of the events.”
Taking questions on the allegations from reporters on Friday, Mr. Ford also defended his Greenbelt plan, noting that over all, the move means more land is inside the protected area.
He repeated the government’s rationale that the housing crisis has made it necessary to open 3,000 hectares of Greenbelt land, to build up to 50,000 homes, while adding 3,800 hectares of land elsewhere to the 800,000-hectare protected zone.
The decision has come under fire since it was first announced last November. The Globe and Mail and other news outlets have reported that some of the land taken out of the Greenbelt changed hands as recently as September, 2022. Land typically shoots up in value once it is designated for development. Mr. Ford and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark have denied tipping off developers in advance.
The province’s Auditor-General and the Integrity Commissioner have both launched investigations, after requests from the Opposition. The Integrity Commissioner is probing whether Mr. Clark violated rules that forbid MPPs from revealing inside information or making decisions to benefit a private individual. The Ontario Provincial Police have also said they were considering whether to launch an investigation after receiving complaints.