Liberals file complaint with Elections Ontario after Doug Ford improperly attended Scarborough fundraiser

The Liberals have filed a formal complaint to Elections Ontario after Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford breached Ontario election law by attending a fundraiser in April.

PC spokesperson said Ford was 'misinformed' about 'the nature of the event'

Doug Ford, left, on April 29, 2018 at a PC fundraising event at the Chandni Banquet Hall in Scarborough. (Toronto Star)

The Liberals have filed a formal complaint to Elections Ontario after Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford breached Ontario election law by attending a fundraiser in April.

The complaint covers several alleged violations of Ontario's Election Finances Act, including Ford's attendance at the event, selling tickets above the maximum allowed contribution and that the event and donors were not publicly disclosed. 

"We trust Elections Ontario will investigate what appears to be an exceptionally clear violation of the Act," Ontario Liberal Party legal counsel Jack Siegel said in a news release Thursday.

PCs part ways with organizer 

The PCs parted ways with campaign organizer Srini Suppiramaniam on Wednesday and promised to refund donations made during the April 29 event at Scarborough's Chandni Banquet Hall.

The fundraiser was held on the same evening as the #TorontoStrong vigil, where Ford also made an appearance. 

​"We have been made aware that the Leader was misinformed by the organizer about the nature of the event," said Ford campaign spokesperson Melissa Lantsman.

"Any money raised at the event that was given to the campaign as a donation will be returned to the donors and we will not accept any money from these guests going forward," she said, adding that Ford "takes full responsibility for what happened."

The party will be filing an infraction with Elections Ontario, as well, according to Lantsman. 
PC Leader Doug Ford faced questions Thursday after one of his candidates stepped down amid allegations that data was stolen from 407 ETR. The New Democratic Party called on Ontario's chief electoral officer to launch an investigation. (Andrew Ryan/Canadian Press)

Ontario's Election Finances Act bars MPPs and candidates who have secured a nomination and party leaders from attending fundraisers during campaigns.

According to a report in the Toronto Star, attendees paid $250 a plate — and $2,000 a piece for a seat at the head table — for the opportunity to meet Ford. 

During campaign stop at a Cambridge pizzeria, Ford told reporters that he goes to hundreds of events and that he was "very clearly misinformed" by Suppiramaniam about this one.

"The person who put on the event was immediately dismissed and walked out of the office and we have an internal investigation. I take Elections Ontario very seriously, the rules," he said. 

Political opponents weigh-in

On Thursday morning, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it was "surprising" that Ford participated in the dinner.

"It's pretty shocking that anybody would flout the rules so blatantly as Mr. Ford did," she said. 

"Look, this is a party that was pretty visceral on their attack on the Liberal cash-for-access of fundraisers, and rightfully so."
Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, left, and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, right, have already weighed in on PC Leader Doug Ford's participation in an April 29 fundraiser. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters, Bruce Reeve/CBC and Chris Young/CP)

At her own campaign event in Ottawa, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne called the revelation about Ford's participation in the event "disturbing" and said Ford will have to answer tough questions about how it happened at all.

"There's a law in this province about candidates attending fundraisers in this province. We all know about that law," Wynne said.

Candidate resigns after data theft probe

It's been a difficult 24 hours for the Tory leader. Earlier on Wednesday the PC candidate in Brampton East, Simmer Sandhu, abruptly quit after his one-time employer, 407 ETR, announced it was investigating an "inside theft of data" that affected 60,000 customers. 

Sandhu worked nine years at the company that owns and operates the toll highway through the GTA. While the company did not specify who was being investigated, Sandhu released a statement calling any allegations against him "totally baseless."

The NDP has called for the province's chief electoral officer to formally investigate if the data breach was used for political gain by PC candidates and operators. 

"We are profoundly troubled by these allegations. Ontarians expect more of political candidates and political parties," said Karla Webber-Gallagher, provincial secretary for the NDP, in a statement that includes 10 questions the NDP want answered by the probe.

"As there are fewer than 21 days left in the Ontario election and as advanced voting begins next week, time is of the essence."