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“I am not a crook!” Ontario style

John Bell

August 29, 2023

Months ago, it came to light that the elite of Ontario’s developers had lined up at a “stag and doe” party to give big cash gifts to one of Doug Ford’s daughters, I think it was Krispy Kreme but I’m not certain.

At the time DoFo accused reporters and critics of being churls, or at least he would have if he knew what churls were. He said that it was all cool, that they were all not just massive financial supporters of him and his party, but dear personal friends who were naturally invited to the party. They were just showing respect and affection for Krispy and her intended, and to suggest otherwise was just plain mean.

But now, just because those same guys miraculously bought up protected parcels of Greenbelt lands just months before Doug and his pod of clapping seals coincidentally decided to un-protect those very parcels, everybody is upset. Corruption, they say! Crooks, they say! Typical Tory douchebags they say!

All just because a bunch of his friends and donors stand to make billions destroying precious wetlands and farms, threatening the GTA’s watershed, just to slap up hectares of ticky tacky tract homes and call it “affordable housing”.

But wait, now DoFo denies that they were ever his friends in the first place. Standing in front of reporters, he tried to rewrite the past.

“You’re saying they’re my friends. I have more friends, regular common folk than builders. Again, you want to imply that? It’s just not accurate.”

Reporter: “Premier, you said they were your friends.”

Being the pious premier that he is, he made like the Apostle Peter and declared 3 times “I do not know the man!”

High on the list of Ford’s not-friends are the multi-billion real estate moguls, the De Gasperis family. (This same family is deeply invested in privatizing healthcare, but that is another crime story.) They are such not-friends that they brought him down to Miami in 2018 and hosted him in their luxury skybox at a Florida Panthers game. Coincidentally the De Gasperis familia managed to grab 58% of the freed-up Greenbelt land.

When the incredulous scribes asked how it was possible that such a massive policy shift, one which blatantly broke his repeated personal promise to protect the Greenbelt land, could accidental put billions of dollars into the pockets of his non-friends, he reminded them that he was a statesman, and above such tawdry details.

“I can’t micromanage hundreds of thousands of employees. I don’t believe in micromanaging, I believe in delegating.”

So, by inference, one of the biggest changes to Ontario’s environmental policy since the Greenbelt was created in 2005 was carried out by some faceless civil servant.

Evidently it wasn’t made by Steve Clark, DoFo’s Housing Minister. Oddly enough, back in 2018 Clark declared, “My commitment to protecting the Greenbelt has not changed… Our government remains steadfast in protecting it for future generations.” (Or 5 years, whichever comes first.)

Looks like the faceless civil servant has a face and a name after all. He is Ryan Amato, Minister Clark’s Chief of Staff, and a loyal Tory apparatchik. Mr. Amato agreed to resign on August 22. Minister Clark declared he had no idea what is Chief of Staff was up to because he too is a delegator. 

Mr. Amato held his senior post as Chief of Staff to one of the province’s key cabinet ministers for years, earning at least $120,086 a year according to Ontario’s “sunshine list” of highly paid civil servants. The fact that he was allowed to resign, as opposed to being fired in disgrace, is an example of the Ford regime’s kindness and humanitarianism. Good luck to Mr. Amato on his new career, inspecting the underside of the bus.

Ford went on to say that he was “confident” there was no corruption involved, that he is famous for not being a crook, and all he cares about was building homes for us common folk, homes that will net his non-friends over $8 billion.

Ford also faced questions about how, during the crucial days when the Greenbelt lands were being handed over to his non-friends, he pointedly did not use his government-issued phone. Records of such devices must be made public. But wait, there are multiple photos of DoFo using a cell phone during that time. It seems he not only believes in delegating, but in burner phones and plausible deniability as well.

And he’s not the only one. An auditor’s report has found that Tory “staffers” either deleted email correspondence with developers and their lobbyists, or used their personal accounts to circumvent the rules. Oops.

Ford, Clark and the rest of the Tory mafia have shown their hand. They intend to ride this out and hope it goes away. They may throw an occasional fall guy to the lions. They will deny, gaslight and change the channel. We say “Corruption!” and they reply “Housing”. They believe we have the attention span of gnats, and we’ll get distracted and forget about it by the next election.

But it is more than 7 months since the infamous Stag and Dough party, and the story has grown to elephantine proportions. And it is in the room wherever Ford goes. From pointed questions by reporters, to damning reports from auditors and ethics commissioners, to OPP investigation to, most recently, the RCMP riding in: this sordid tale of kickbacks, greed and wanton environmental destruction will not go away.

Ford can go all Nixonian and declare “I am not a crook” until he turns Tory blue in the face. No one but the most rabid partisans will believe him, and we will not forget. But we mustn’t sit back and wait for the next election – by then irreparable damage will have been done. Now is the time to connect this corruption to other Tory scandals: privatizing our precious healthcare, trampling Indigenous rights in a scramble to grab resources profits, abandoning the disabled and ignoring an affordable housing crisis that grows by the day.

If we can pull these threads together we can weave the rope that will hang Doug Ford and his gang.

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