Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner has hit the Ontario government and Premier Doug Ford again with accusations of corruption and cronyism. In two different releases, Schreiner attacked the government’s Ontario News Now channel, and demanded that the government reform how they make appointments.
On Wednesday, Schreiner responded to accusations that the Government of Ontario was using the taxpayer-funded social media channel Ontario News Now to promote Progressive Conservative party donors. A video featuring Pelee Island Winery was posted last weekend as a way to promote Niagara Region wines, but upon further examination, Pelee Island president Walter Schmoranz was revealed to have donated to the PC party twice in 2019.
“Doug Ford and the old PC party once railed against this misuse of tax dollars and insider access by elite donors. Now they’re knee-deep in it,” Schreiner said in a media release.
“Elected officials should not use their positions to sell favours for friends, donors, insiders or lobbyists,” Schreiner added. “Yet we continue to learn of the multiple avenues through which PC donors and friends of the family exert influence on Ford’s government.”
An independent analysis showed that Ontario News Now has posted videos featuring five other businesses whose owners or managers had donated previously to the Premier or his party.
“The Premier will continue to support and promote small businesses and the incredible contribution they make in communities across Ontario,” said a statement from the Premier’s office, which added, “no one can buy Doug Ford.”
Schreiner is also concerned about who and how people are being appointed to top level positions in the Ford government. Over the last several weeks, there have been a number of resignations of officials who have familial or other ties to Dean French, the Premier’s former Chief of Staff .
“The underhanded actions of the Premier’s Office have exposed the deep problems in the existing appointment process. It is far too easy to give out cushy, publicly funded jobs to personal connections,” Schreiner said Thursday.
Beyond criticism, Schreiner released a multi-part plan designed to make the appointment process more transparent, and more merit-based so that accusations of cronyism and insider trading might be better avoided in the future.
“These proposed changes would protect the appointment process from the rampant abuse we have witnessed,” Schreiner said.
The proposal is a seven-point plan that includes the requirement of a merit-based evaluation for each candidate to a position to make sure their qualified, plus a consistent standard of transparency for all appointments.
Schreiner also called for the results of any Integrity Commissioner investigation to be made public, that the government add a public complaints process, that a special committee should be created to reform the appointments process, and that the government should continue to strive for greater diversity and gender parity for public boards and agencies.
“We are looking for people who are committed to the principles and values of public service and who will perform their duties with integrity,” Schreiner said. “Appointees must also demonstrate they have the qualifications and expertise needed to perform the role effectively.”
The Premier’s office told CBC News that the Treasury Board is reviewing the appointment process presently, and that if anyone appointed by Ford is not holding up their end, then they will be replaced.
“As every government in the past has done, we will continue to search for and appoint individuals who we believe are qualified and support our Open for Business agenda,” said Ivana Yelich, Ford’s press secretary.