Ontario’s opposition parties are calling on the Ford government to provide more details after the leak of donations made to the so-called “Freedom Convoy” GiveSendGo campaign cost a senior staff member her job.
The solicitor-general’s now-former director of communications, Marion Isabeau-Ringuette, reportedly donated $100 to the online fundraising platform on Feb. 5.
First reported by QP Briefing, the alleged donation came a day after GoFundMe suspended another fundraising campaign over concerns the protest in Ottawa had become an occupation, and just ahead of blockades at the Ambassador Bridge.
Ontario’s attorney general eventually stepped in to seek an injunction, freezing the funds for the GiveSendGo campaign several days later.
The premier’s office told Global News in a statement that Isabeau-Ringuette was no longer on staff.
“Ms. Isabeau-Ringuette no longer works for the Ontario government,” said Ivana Yelich in an email. “We’re not commenting any further as this is a staffing matter.”
The leader of Ontario’s Liberals is demanding more answers, calling the donation both appalling and likely without precedent.
“This is not just a staff person working in any particular ministry,” said Steven Del Duca. “This is a senior staff person working in the minister’s office, the minister in charge for community safety.”
Del Duca said it’s important to delve further into who is behind the money supporting the protests.
“I think we really have to shed light to fully understand how it is possible that Ontario’s second largest city can be held hostage, can be under siege, can be occupied illegally for nearly a month, and Doug Ford be invisible,” he said.
Duff Conacher with Democracy Watch said the firing within the solicitor-general’s office was justified. “Cabinet staff serve at the pleasure of the minister and can be fired for any reason, including optics like this,” he said.
But Conacher warns employers, including the government officials, need to be careful when it comes to doling out punishments for online fundraisers.
“When you’re donating to a group that protests, it may not be the organizing group that you donated to that actually did the illegal activity,” said Conacher. “It could be people showing up to sabotage the protest.”
Ontario’s NDP were also asking questions over another potential connection to the Tories. In a statement, the official opposition demanded clarity whether a co-principal at Campaign Research, which conducts polling for the PCs, had donated.
Richard Ciano, who is also the former president of the Progressive Conservatives Party on Ontario, denied the link.
In an email, Ciano told Global News, “I did not make any contributions whatsoever to the trucker convoy. I don’t know why or how my name appears on that list.”
A request to the premier’s office over what further actions will be made to determine connections between staff and donations was not answered.