Doug Ford has dismissed calls for police to investigate Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives and says he has cleaned up the party since becoming leader, despite revelations that a number of local nomination races may have been marred by electoral interference.
Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne said on Saturday that Mr. Ford should request that the Ontario Provincial Police look into the PC Party’s nomination practices after a Globe and Mail investigation found widespread evidence of alleged voter fraud in a number of nominations, including allegations of ballot-box stuffing, ineligible voters and fake memberships.
Tory candidate Simmer Sandhu resigned from a Brampton-area riding earlier this week after his former employer, the company that owns the 407 toll highway, revealed that customer data had been stolen. Mr. Sandhu has denied any wrongdoing.
Speaking with reporters on Saturday while campaigning in the Muskokas, Mr. Ford said he “hasn’t heard of any other issues” with nominations except for those raised in Brampton. He said that any issues should be addressed to the party’s former leader, Patrick Brown, who resigned in January after facing allegations of sexual misconduct.
“If there’s more allegations, then bring them forward. We’ll deal with them appropriately. And once I find out, I’ll deal with them exactly the way I’ve dealt with every other issue. I’ve inherited this mess from Patrick Brown and if it comes to me, I’ll act immediately,” said Mr. Ford.
The Tory leader did not answer when he was repeatedly asked if the party was conducting an internal investigation into its candidates and any links with Snover Dhillon, a businessman and political organizer convicted of fraud. Mr. Dhillon played an influential role in a number of the local nominations, including that of Mr. Sandhu. The PC Party also did not directly address a written question about whether it was looking into the allegations.
“The media keeps talking about it,” Mr. Ford said of the disputed nominations. “I don’t know about it. You mention the snowbird guy, I don’t know this guy. Maybe you guys should be talking to Patrick Brown.”
The PC Party overturned four nomination races after Mr. Ford became leader but no reason was given by the party. In the past Mr. Ford has warned that over 30 of the party’s races could have been tainted and that he would be “leaving no stone unturned” as he looked into each race. On Saturday, Mr. Ford said he had “cleaned up the party.”
York Regional Police have confirmed that they are looking into the data breach at the 407 highway. Police in Hamilton are investigating a PC nomination in the riding of Hamilton-West-Ancaster-Dundas that was held for a second time after allegations of voter fraud surfaced. One of the candidates in that riding was a client of Mr. Dhillon.
Ms. Wynne has said that Elections Ontario and the OPP should ensure that the PC party does not have personal data from the 407 highway and called on Mr. Ford to fire all candidates with links to Mr. Dhillon.
“Those who aspire to lead our province have an obligation to put the integrity of our electoral process ahead of partisan gain, political ambition or, indeed, any other consideration. Mr. Ford has an opportunity to act,” Ms. Wynne said in a statement.
The New Democrats have also called on Elections Ontario to probe what happened with the 407 highway data.
Mr. Ford is scheduled to make two public appearances on Sunday but he will not be taking questions from reporters at either event his campaign announced Saturday. The provincial election is on June 7.