The Ontario Provincial Police completed its review of allegations of illegal lobbying by advisers to Premier Doug Ford and referred the matter to the province’s ethics watchdog on Friday.
Investigators launched the review after Independent MPP Randy Hillier alleged in March that he was expelled from the Progressive Conservative caucus in part for raising concerns “of possible illegal and unregistered lobbying by close friends and advisers employed by Premier Ford.” Mr. Hillier did not specify to whom he was referring.
“The Ontario Provincial Police’s Anti-Rackets Branch has reviewed the information provided and determined there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal investigation at this time,” Staff Sergeant Carolle Dionne said in an e-mail.
“We have provided the information to the Integrity Commissioner [IC], as the commissioner has investigative powers under the Lobbyists Registration Act.”
Michelle Renaud, a spokeswoman for Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, said the OPP provided information to the commissioner on Friday.
However, she noted that Mr. Wake is prohibited by law from disclosing whether he is conducting an investigation.
In an interview, Mr. Hillier said he continues to stand by his allegations: “The facts are unchanged.”
Mr. Hillier said Ontario’s ethics laws are lacking and noted that the Integrity Commissioner, rather than the OPP, has jurisdiction to investigate alleged misconduct under the Lobbyists Registration Act, which has a maximum penalty of a two-year lobbying ban.
“I am completely unsatisfied by our integrity laws in this province,” he said. “I think they’re a joke.”
Ivana Yelich, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ford, said the Premier’s Office had not been made aware of the development.
“Ontario has strict rules when it comes to lobbying. Any breach of these rules will not be tolerated by the Premier,” she said in an e-mail.
NDP MPP Taras Natyshak, who forwarded Mr. Hillier’s allegations to the OPP, called on the Integrity Commissioner to investigate the allegations and for the Premier to fully co-operate.
“These are questions that continue to circle the Premier, and we need fully transparent evidence and we need the Premier to work with the Integrity Commissioner’s office to ensure that they have all the evidence to make any determination given Randy Hillier’s allegations,” he said.
Under Ontario law, anyone being paid to influence public officials must register their clients, lobbying goals and targets in the province’s lobbyists registry, which is publicly searchable.
Lobbyists are prohibited from placing public office holders, including MPPs, in a conflict of interest, whether real or potential.
While there are no rules that specifically govern how elected officials interact with lobbyists, Ontario law prohibits MPPs from taking part in making decisions in which there is an opportunity to further their own private interest or to improperly further the private interest of another person.
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