Thursday, January 05, 2006

Liberal corruption: not just for the Feds

Harinder Takhar is the Ontario Liberal Transportation Minister.

He is also the owner of a company called the Chalmers Group.

Under the Ontario Members Integrity Act, Takhar was required to place his assets, including Chalmers Group, into a blind trust, to be administered by an arms-length trustee. Takhar was to have no say in the day-to-day running of the company.

Who was appointed as trustee of the company? Joseph Jeyanayagam, treasurer of his Mississauga riding association!

Not only that, but on April 29 last year, Mr Takhar was photographed attending a meeting at Chalmers Group with his wife and Mr. Jeyanayagam, which they claim was to discuss sending Mr. Takhar's daughter to university in the UK. She wasn't present at this meeting, which was reported by them to the Integrity Commissioner only on June 10, co-incidentally (you think?) the same day that a reporter from the Toronto Sun contacted Mr Takhar for an interview on the subject.

Needless to say, such blatant disregard for the rules triggered an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner, who has now issued his report.

The Toronto Sun reports:

Commissioner Coulter Osborne ruled yesterday that Takhar breached the province's Members Integrity Act by assigning a close political ally to manage his assets in a blind trust. Rules require such assets be under the control of a trustee arms' length from the minister.

Osborne also criticized the minister for attending a meeting at his family-owned company when conflict-of-interest rules forbid him from managing private business while in cabinet.

"There is ... no doubt that the minister was egregiously reckless in participating in the April 29 meeting at Chalmers," Osborne states in his 35-page report.

"He virtually invited a complaint by his conduct."
Regarding the meeting, the Commissioner commented:
"Perhaps my skepticism is in part caused by my concern as to why this meeting at Chalmers was held in the first place and why Mr. Jeyanayagam was invited to participate".

"After the meeting had concluded, for reasons that I find somewhat bewildering, Mr. Jeyanayagam concluded his notes by referring to Mrs. Takhar making lunch arrangements, the minister going out to make some mobile phone calls and to the fact that Mr. Jeyanayagam went out to the parking lot with the minister".

This is the first time that the Integrity Commissioner has recommended that the Legislative Assembly reprimand a sitting cabinet minister.

You would think that the only decent course of action for Mr Takhar would be resignation, right? You would also think that if Premier McGuint had any respect for the Integrity Commissioner (and integrity itself), he would demand that resignation if it was not forthcoming.

Well no, that's not the Liberal way, is it.

Both Takhar and McGuinty issued brief written statements in response to Osborne's report, but refused media requests for interviews.

"It is clear the minister demonstrated a lapse in judgment in this circumstance," McGuinty's statement reads.

"I continue to have confidence in Minister Takhar as my minister of transportation and as a valued member of my cabinet and caucus."

Sure, what's a little breaking of the Integrity Act amongst comrades?

According to Christina Blizzard's column in today's Sun:
PC Leader John Tory pointed out that McGuinty said on June 17 of last year that it was appropriate for a minister to resign when "it was very clear a rule has been broken."

"It doesn't get much clearer than this," Tory told a news conference. "A rule has been broken."
Rules? They're not for our superior Liberal masters.

UPDATE: Blog comment here and here.


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