The NDP is now asking Ontario chief electoral officer Greg Essensa to investigate whether provincial laws guiding political contributions were breached after the party uncovered 10 more PC donations from people linked to FH Health.
The donors in question include company employees and those who share names of family members and close business colleagues of the company’s board of directors, all of whom made maximum allowable donations to the Tories within days of one another months before FH Health was awarded a sole-sourced contract to run 10 GTA vaccine clinics.
The 10 additional donations, which range from $1,000 to $3,000, came in September, the same month as those made by the company’s board directors, as first reported by Queen’s Park Today. It puts the total amount donated to the governing party in that timeframe by people connected to FH Health at more than $42,000.
NDP Ethics and Accountability critic Taras Natyshak unveiled the Opposition’s findings at a press conference on Thursday, saying it raises concerns that the donations may violate Sec. 19 of the Elections Finance Act, which forbids people from donating money that isn’t theirs or funds given to them by someone else, or a corporation, for the purpose of making a donation. It also forbids parties from accepting such improper donations.
An investigation by Elections Ontario is needed to sort out if that is the case, the NDP critic argued. The NDP previously called for a probe by the auditor general into the initially reported donations.
Queen’s Park Today has reached out to FH Health seeking comment on the new revelations and the NDP’s requests but did not receive a response by deadline Thursday. The company previously told this newsletter it did not co-ordinate or ask its directors to donate to the PCs.
“It’s quite egregious,” said Natyshak. “Doug Ford campaigned on getting rid of the gravy train. Now we see that the gravy train has been extended and, potentially, continues to operate.”
‘This is not a coincidence,’ NDP charges
Per the NDP’s findings, FH Health’s chief medical officer Peter Blecher made a $1,000 donation to the PCs on September 3, the same day company president Melody Adhami-Dorrani and board director David Diamond each contributed identical amounts. Unlike the two board members, Blecher has previously given to the PCs and did not top up his donation to the maximum amount of $3,300 as they later did.
Another FH Health employee, health solutions innovator Anu Rebbapragada, also gave $1,000 to the PCs on September 4, without topping it up.
Jessica Diamond, who appears to be David’s wife, gave $3,300 on September 15, the same day he topped up his own donation. Sean and Joshua Diamond, who appear to work at David’s other company, Diamond Marketing, gave the governing party $3,300 each on September 19 and 22, respectively.
Maggie Adhami-Boynton made the maximum contribution on September 22, and shares the name of the woman who co-founded the company ShopThing with FH board chairman Sepehr Seyedi.
Chloe, Brie, Jeffrey and Warren Kimel all contributed the maximum allowable funds to the PCs on September 20 and 21, and share the names of the wife, sister-in-law, brother and father, respectively, of board treasurer Michael Kimel, who also made his max donation on September 20. Jeffrey and Warren Kimel also both have a previous history of donating to the PCs.
“This is not a coincidence,” said Natyshak. “It looks like what it is: word got around that, potentially, in order to be in a position to receive a new contract, there had to be a little bit of an adder, there.”
NDP sources told Queen’s Park Today that Essensa’s office has opened a file with a tracking number in response to the party’s complaint on Thursday. No word has been received from the auditor general’s office.
During his press conference, Natyshak stopped short of outright accusing the PCs of knowingly violating the law by accepting the donations but said the public deserves to know whether the donations were co-ordinated or with the involvement of the Tories.
“It looks sketchy. It looks fishy. It looks potentially like a quid pro quo. You scratch my back, I scratch yours, and ultimately you get a sole source contract,” said Natyshak in response to a question from Queen’s Park Today.
PCs say contribution laws were followed
When asked about the donations, PC communications director Stephanie Bellotto said the party’s actions were above board.
“We follow all rules and guidelines set out by Elections Ontario and the Election Finances Act,” she said.
Natyshak suggested the PCs should welcome investigations into the matter if that’s the case, but he called on the party to return the money if it’s determined there was any co-ordinated effort on the part of FH Health.
The critic also argued the lack of transparency surrounding FH Health’s sole-sourced contract is also troubling, since it is still unknown how much money the company was paid to run the provincial vaccination clinics.
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner echoed those concerns.
“Decisions about Ontario’s pandemic response should not be made based on political donations. We need transparency and accountability from our elected officials to build the public trust needed to get through this crisis,” said Schreiner.
“There should have been a transparent and competitive bidding process to get the best outcome for Ontarians.”
Queen’s Park Today’s questions to the offices of Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Health Minister Christine Elliott remained unanswered on Thursday. Jones’ office stressed in statements to other media outlets that the decision to tap FH Health to run the booster clinics was made by ministry officials, not the solicitor general.