As the June provincial election approaches in Ontario, Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford and his party have been mired in controversy. Here’s a breakdown of the various scandals that have been plaguing the campaign, along with other issues embroiling the Liberals and NDP.
Ford is being accused of paying for memberships for new party members and bringing them in by bus to help Kinga Surma, his preferred candidate in the riding where he lives, win the PC nomination over rival candidate Pina Martino.
On Thursday the Ontario Liberals released an audio recording featuring Ford and Surma speaking to people at a Tim Horton’s in Etobicoke in October 2016, according to press release from the Liberals. In it, Ford is heard saying that a PC membership “won’t cost you a thing.”
“It doesn’t cost ya anything, we’re just signing people up today. That’s it,” Ford says in the recording. “You don’t have to fill that out. She’ll take your name, number; just sign it.”
The liberals say the audio shows Ford “directly participating in bogus membership sales for the Conservative Party nomination in Etobicoke Centre. Mr. Ford can be heard encouraging potential party members to leave forms incomplete and suggesting that the membership fee will be paid by others. These practices contradict the rules and regulations that Mr. Ford, as leader, has pledged to enforce.”
The party also released an affidavit from Martino, in which she details examples of Ford violating membership rules and an email she sent to then-party lawyer Mike Richmond, alleging that Ford used “intimidation tactics” against her, like following her home.
The Ford campaign says the party’s appeals committee has already looked into the allegations, which are old, and found them to be unsubstantiated.
Last week, allegations surfaced that Tory candidates may have been using stolen customer information obtained during a data breach from 407 ETR, a provincial highway toll operator, resulting in Brampton East candidate Simmer Sandhu’s resignation. Sandhu, a former employee at the company, dropped out of the race shortly after 407 ETR issued a statement about an “internal theft” of customer information of about 60,000 people. Some 407 ETR users have come forward, saying they’d received unsolicited robocalls from the PC party.
A businessman, political organizer, and convicted fraudster Snover Dhillon is at the heart of the data theft controversy. Dhillon, who offered his services to clients trying to win Conservative nominations, played an important role in a number of the local PC nominations, including that of Sandhu, which ended in dispute, with allegations of ballot stuffing and membership fraud. Conservative sources told the National Post that Dhillon was seen bringing in large numbers of members into nomination meetings, but he denies having ever signed any members up. He now says he’s been unfairly vilified by the media and that he did nothing wrong.
On how to deal with discrimination
Andrew Lawton, former Rebel media contributor and PC candidate for London, whose previous racist and homophobic statements had already been exposed during the campaign, also said on the show he hosted between 2015 and 2017 that it’s time that discrimination be legalized, Press Progress reported this week. He argued in March of 2016 that businesses should be allowed to discriminate against people based on gender and race. This revelation comes after Doug Ford stood by Lawton, after his racist, misogynistic, and homophobic comments were brought to light — Lawton blamed his own behaviour on his struggle unspecified mental illness between 2005 and 2013. Earlier this month, Ford described Lawton a a “good candidate.”
“He has come out and said some of his comments weren’t appropriate,” Ford said. “I’ll accept that and we’re happy to have Andrew on as one of the candidates and, again, we have a big tent.”
Ford hasn’t addressed the issue since this latest revelation.
On gay marriage
Earlier this month, the Liberals again moved into exposing mode, releasing a video of Ford’s former PC leadership rival Tanya Granic Allen. The short video shows Granic Allen saying that when she sees Croatia "trying to push radical sexualization on the young, or gay marriage, I almost vomit in disbelief." Inflammatory posts she made about Muslims and gay marriage also surfaced around the same time. Ford’s campaign simply described her comments as “irresponsible” and the anti sex-ed candidate was kicked out. Many questioned why Granic Allen was allowed to run in the first place, and why the nominations committee didn’t foresee her being a liability for the party.
There’s been no shortage of scandals outside of the PC party, too. The NDP, which is demanding that Elections Ontario probe 12 PC nominations, and the Liberals, who have called on Ford to have the Ontario Provincial Police investigate, have had several hiccups of their own in the past week.
On wearing poppies on Remembrance Day
Over the weekend, NDP leader Andrea Horwath came out in defence of Mississauga Centre hopeful Laura Kaminker, whose social media comments rejecting the concept of wearing poppies on Remembrance Day started getting attention online. Kaminker described the act as a “ritual of war glorification.” Horwath, for her part, said she disagreed, but that “freedom of speech is a principle that we all, I think, value.”
Promoting conspiracy theories
Dwayne Morgan, the NDP candidate in Scarborough, deleted an old tweet in which he suggested that former U.S. President George W. Bush had a role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Now if they could do something about Bush’s role in 9/11, people could finally get closure,” said the tweet, dated May of 2011.
This comment came to light shortly after that of a Liberal candidate, who had also suggested in a 2012 post that 9/11 was an inside job.
“911, was it really a terrorist attack or another conspiracy for cover up? As soon as it happened back in 2001, I thought: ‘how can the US Defense be so weak? I thought the US had LET it happen so they can declare war,” Amanda Yeung Collucci wrote on Facebook, excatly [sic] 11 years after the attack.
She has since apologized for the comments, saying in a statement to iPolitics that they were “obviously a mistake, because they could easily be misconstrued, for which I am sorry.”
“They are not representative of my views and I apologize to anyone who might have been offended.”