Ontario Liberal politician Doug Ford has dismissed the allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances and crude comments online during a heated public debate over his decision to change the province’s vaccination policy last fall.
In a letter to the Liberal party, the father of the Toronto mayor described the accusations – which include sending crude e-mails while conducting online surveys – as “baseless gossip.”
But his response did not end the controversy: Ford’s case was moved from first-tier desk in the Ontario legislature to a disciplinary hearing in December. He faces a hearing later this year.
Video clips of his interactions with various individuals online were posted in an online forum by one person who described herself as a Facebook friend. (Ford and his brother, Toronto mayor Rob Ford, made headlines last year when videos surfaced showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine.)
Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale, who has reported on the alleged discussions, tweeted: “Not normal: Ontario Liberal Party apologizes to Doug Ford after Premier defends lawmaker on sexual harassment allegations.”
In his letter to the Liberal party, the Etobicoke North MPP said he gave away his passwords to Facebook and his cellphone so he could “discuss public policy” and receive advice on social media. He wrote that he considered people on those sites to be friends.
“Your suggestion that I was ‘friending’ anyone is offensive, offensive and wrong,” Ford wrote.
Ford also said he did not write e-mails to women. “You are asking me if I wrote these e-mails,” he wrote. “What are you afraid of that led you to think that email messages between acquaintances needed to be considered if they were sent via Facebook? I have five children, they read every single e-mail that I sent to them. I expect a very high standard of professional conduct from them. If you think I have betrayed that high standard by sending these emails, you have my apologies.”
But critics say he crossed a line between words and deeds. The New Democratic Party and Progressive Conservative parties called for the mayor’s pay to be docked.
“If these allegations are true, it is alarming that members of the governing party protected a leader who undermined the functioning of Parliament and the health and safety of Torontonians,” Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Liberal Party’s leader, said in a statement.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said that he could not comment directly on Ford’s actions, but said Ford has a responsibility to the people in which he represents to avoid conduct that “can be viewed as unprofessional.”