Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal dodges a bullet

Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal has been cleared of wrongdoing in an investigation by the province’s integrity commissioner.
               Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal, federal Liberal candidate Raj Saini, MPP Daiene Vernile and a Block 3 employee pose at an event announcing provincial funding to help the company increase its production and promotion, Sept. 1, 2015. (Daiene Vernile/Twitter)             

Kitchener-Conestoga Conservative MPP Michael Harris accused Leal and Daiene Vernile, Liberal MPP for Kitchener-Centre, of partisan politics during the federal election campaign.

Harris complained after he saw photos of the two Liberal MPPs with federal Liberal candidate Raj Saini at a Sept. 1 event at the Block 3 Brewing Company.

"I have found no evidence to suggest that the purpose of the event was anything other than to announce the granting of funds to the company under the Rural Economic Development program of the (Ontario) Ministry (of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs)," wrote Ontario's Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison in her Dec. 22 report.

But she was critical of provincial politicians, saying"I continue to be concerned that all MPPs are not paying sufficient attention to their social media activities.

"Most MPPs have taken steps to ensure that the content available directly on their websites is non-partisan," Morrison wrote. 

"However it is disappointing to note that MPPs have been less diligent about ensuring that content accessible through links on their constituency websites, particularly social media, is similarly non-partisan.

"I recommend that all MPPs with social media accounts linked to their constituency websites cease posting partisan messages and warn that future non-compliance may result in penalties being imposed in the future."

She dismissed Harris’s complaint that the event was not open to the public. She said it was, but no federal candidates were invited.

In her words, “ministry (OMAFRA) officials were responsible for informing attendees about the event and appear to have taken steps to minimize the risk of federal candidates campaigning at the event by not informing the local federal candidate of the event."

Liberal candidate Saini won election, defeating a Conservative incumbent.