Toronto’s integrity commissioner said an investigation is underway into whether Mayor John Tory’s ties to Rogers put him in a conflict of interest when he participated in a city council debate last month regarding ActiveTO, a COVID-19-related road closure program.
In an email to Global News on Friday, Integrity Commissioner Jonathan Batty confirmed an investigation “is underway.”
“At this time, however, I caution that I have reached no conclusion that the MCIA has been breached,” Batty wrote. “I have no additional information to provide at this time.”
According to the city’s website, the integrity commissioner is “responsible for providing advice, complaint resolution and education to members of City Council and local boards (restricted definition) on the application of the City’s codes of conduct, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA) and other bylaws, policies and legislation governing ethical behaviour.”
A complaint, submitted by a civic activist, alleges Tory has a conflict of interest over his ties to Rogers Communications and a council decision to end regular ActiveTO road closures on Lake Shore Boulevard West.
In 2020, the city decided to close the eastbound portion of the six-lane roadway to allow for more space for the public to access the waterfront while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
The ActiveTO closures continued less frequently during 2021 and have occurred twice in 2022 so far.
On Tuesday, civic activist Adam Chaleff said he filed a formal complaint with the city’s integrity commissioner against Tory for participating in a council debate regarding ActiveTO.
In early June, Toronto Blue Jays CEO Mark Shapiro wrote an open letter to Toronto city councillors, urging them not to vote in favour of extending ActiveTO.
“On the days when ActiveTO has been in effect on Lake Shore, our local fans have experienced significant transit delays because traffic is grinded to a halt on all downtown routes,” the letter read.
Tory has a long association with Rogers Communications, which owns the Blue Jays. Tory was an executive for Rogers in the 1990s and still sits on the advisory committee of the family trust that controls Rogers.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Chaleff said he believes Tory “contravened the Municipal Conflict of Interest act when he voted on and spoke about ending the Lake Shore Blvd. ActiveTO closure.”
“I believe that Tory has tried to serve two masters at the same time — Rogers and the public interest — which is what the MCIA is setup to prevent,” Chaleff wrote. “I say a judge must now determine whether and what consequences Tory should face for this apparent conflict of interest.”
In a statement emailed to Global News on Friday, Lawvin Hadisi, a spokesperson for Tory’s office said the mayor is “fully cooperating with the Integrity Commissioner.”
“We respect the Integrity Commissioner and, as we said when the complaint was first announced, we won’t be making any further comment,” Hadisi said, adding that Tory’s “record on integrity speaks for itself.”
What’s more, on Thursday, Shapiro told reporters that he supports ActiveTO. He said his intention was to ask council to recalibrate the times and locations of the program.
“So (the message) was just to consider the routes, consider the other things going on, and consider that we’re not in the same place we were getting started,” Shapiro said.
He told reporters he was aware of the complaint filed against Tory but that he had no comment on the matter.
“I read it and went back to running the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s just not my expertise. It’s not my area of focus,” said Shapiro.
Tory has announced he will be seeking re-election in October’s municipal election.
In a statement Friday, Chaleff thanked the Integrity Commissioner for his “swift decision” to investigate Tory.
“Torontonians deserve to know as soon as possible whether their mayor is working exclusively in the public interest or if he is being unduly influenced by his loyalty to Rogers,” Chaleff said.
-With files from Global News’ Isaac Callan and The Canadian Press.