Ontario Provincial Police are determining whether a full investigation is warranted into the case of a civil servant who was fired for allegedly leaking confidential draft health legislation prepared for Premier Doug Ford’s government.
“The OPP was notified yesterday and Anti-Rackets Branch is currently reviewing the matter,” Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne said Tuesday.
An unnamed bureaucrat was dismissed Monday as New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath revealed more internal government documents, saying they suggest Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are poised to privatize some health services in a new “super agency” first reported by the Star in December.
Howarth went public with the confidential draft legislation last Thursday, and Health Minister Christine Elliott has repeatedly denied any intent to go on a privatization binge as part of a broader “transformation” of the health care system.
The OPP was notified by acting secretary of cabinet Steven Davidson, the province’s top civil servant, following a brief internal investigation into the leaked legislation.
He reminded bureaucrats of their oath “to protect the confidentiality of all information that comes into our possession, unless we are legally authorized or required to release it.”
The prospect of an anti-rackets investigation comes as Ford has appointed his friend Ron Taverner, a veteran Toronto police superintendent, as commissioner of the OPP amid controversy over the posting and its potential to undermine trust in the country’s second-largest police force. The appointment is on hold pending a review by Ontario’s independent integrity commissioner into whether there was any political interference in the hiring.
“In these situations the public must have confidence the OPP will act appropriately,” Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter warned. “That is impossible if the OPP commissioner is known to be a close friend of the premier.”
The OPP’s anti-rackets squad has investigated two high-profile political cases in recent years.
A major probe into deleted documents in the wake of a previous Liberal government’s scandal over gas plants scrapped prior to the 2011 election resulted in a criminal conviction and jail sentence for former premier Dalton McGuinty’s chief of staff, David Livingston.
Another investigation, into complaints a potential Liberal candidate for a 2015 Sudbury byelection was bribed into staying out of the party’s nomination race, led to Election Act charges against two Liberal strategists. Those charges were dismissed by the trial judge for lack of evidence before any defence witnesses were called.
Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1