Brampton MPP Sara Singh accuses Premier Ford of covering up sexual misconduct scandal
Monday’s question period at Queen’s Park became combative when Brampton MPP Sara Singh raised questions about whether Premier Doug Ford had tried to hide allegations of sexual misconduct against former cabinet minister Jim Wilson, who resigned two weeks ago after it was originally stated that he was suffering from an addiction issue.
Singh (NDP, Brampton Centre), pointed out that Ford had given the media two different answers about why Wilson stepped down from the PC caucus. “Last Friday, in a late night statement, the premier stated that ‘the MPP for Simcoe-Grey will be leaving cabinet and the PC caucus to deal with personal addiction issues.’ Was that the real reason for his dismissal?” Singh demanded.
Ford responded that he found it “shameful that the member from Brampton would even keep bringing this up.” He said the alleged victim had asked that the matter be kept private. “The person who came forward with the allegations asked us over and over again to be protected. Not to say a word.”
He argued that he was protecting those involved in the allegations that have swirled around Wilson over the past week. “My job is to make sure I protect everyone in our party, everyone under this roof at Queen’s Park,” Ford said, adding that he was concerned about the victim and not the optics of the situation. “We’ve acted decisively, and when someone comes forward with an allegation, my job is to protect them. Not to worry about what the opposition or the NDP or the media is worried about.”
Singh persisted: “The premier has since admitted that the real reason for the dismissal from cabinet was sexual harassment and misconduct. The premier also claimed he hid those facts because he was concerned that the media would disclose the name of the individual who came forward. But the journalists have reported on this for over a week, and no names have been disclosed. So why did the premier offer a different reason for the resignation on Friday than the one he is offering to us today?”
Ford did not answer the question directly, instead repeating his earlier response about needing to protect the victim. “It’s not about keeping the NDP happy. It’s not about keeping the media happy. It’s about protecting the people who have the courage to come forward with these allegations.”
Wilson, who has been an MPP since 1990 and represents the riding of Simcoe-Grey, stepped down last week from his post as minister of economic development. Though PC officials first reported that “addiction issues” were the reason, media reports soon began to quote unnamed sources within the party that the resignation was due to an allegation of sexual misconduct.
Ford later acknowledged the allegation, with the explanation that he had hidden it to protect the victim. "I commend them (the accuser) for coming forward and having that courage," Ford told reporters. "They're a priority. They trump the media." Monday morning’s response during question period has been Ford’s reply to questions about the scandal ever since.
In an emailed statement to The Pointer after the exchange at the legislature, Singh said, “Ford patted himself on the back, showing no regard for the [alleged] victim of sexual misconduct, or for the Ontarians he lied to (all of us).
“I do know that protecting harassers and covering for them sends a bad message. Protecting a victim or survivor who wants their identity kept secret is always the right thing to do. Protecting the person who hurt them is not.”
The Pointer reached out to Ford’s office for a response, but has not yet received one.
The allegation came the same week that a federal Conservative with close ties to Brampton was forced to resign from the party caucus. Parry Sound MP Tony Clement came forward last week admitting that he had sexted two women and claimed he was facing an extortion attempt that the RCMP is now investigating. Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer asked Clement to resign from the party caucus, along with his positions in various committees and his role as justice critic.
Earlier in the month, Ford parted ways with senior aid Andrew Kimber after five female Tory staffers came forward saying Kimber had sent inappropriate text messages to them. The texts included pictures of him in his underwear, for which he apologized in a statement on Twitter, saying: “Everyone has the right to live and work free from harassment, and I’m sorry for those who I have hurt.”
Three high-profile resignations in the space of two weeks raise questions about safety in the parliamentary work environment.
During his election campaign, Ford had promised voters repeatedly that his government would be more transparent than the last.
“Obviously, Ford is not being transparent,” Singh told The Pointer in her emailed statement, adding, “That's one of the reasons why Ford's cover-up is concerning.
“I believe everyone has the right to a safe, harassment-free workplace, and that more should be done to make sure people in positions of power who abuse that power are held accountable. That's what the #MeToo movement is all about.”
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