Article by Rob Ferguson, Toronto Star
Doug Ford’s government is leaving the dangerous impression it’s fair game to put political pressure on police to make arrests by stonewalling questions swirling around the premier’s embattled chief of staff, critics say.
The concerns grew Thursday as opposition parties grilled the Progressive Conservatives over a Star report that Ford’s top aide, Dean French, was accused by PC whistleblowers of instructing them to direct police to raid outlaw cannabis shops to get video of “people in handcuffs” on TV news for partisan advantage.
“The government might not want to answer questions on this matter but the people of Ontario have the right to know,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who asked for a second day whether Ford has spoken to French about the situation.
Neither the government nor French has denied the order was given to political staff during a conference call on Oct. 17, the day cannabis became legal. Ontario’s integrity commissioner is considering a request for an official investigation from Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, who questioned whether there had been an “abuse of power.”
Several Conservative sources told the Star said objections were quickly raised about the order, which was not carried out, earning French’s ire. One staffer who questioned the directive was subsequently fired and the government has provided no public explanation.
Ford was at a hospital announcement in Mississauga on Thursday and did not attend the legislature’s daily question period, leaving Finance Minister Vic Fedeli to field questions.