Yasir Naqvi: Call in the OPP.
It’s time to clean up Queen’s Park

By Yasir Naqvi

As published in the Toronto Sun

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Like one-third of Ontarians, I am an immigrant.

At 15, my parents uprooted me and my two siblings from our life in Pakistan, where my father had been jailed for participating in a pro-democracy rally.

My mom and dad came to Ontario because they wanted to live in a place where the rule of law applied to everyone, where success for us kids would be based on work ethic, not by how connected we were to the corridors of power.

This passion for justice and the rule of law inspired me to become a lawyer, run for public office, and eventually become Ontario’s attorney general. These same values are driving me to seek the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, a stepping stone to run against Premier Doug Ford in 2026.

I have always spoken truth to power. And the status quo in Ontario politics today worries me because too many politicians are more interested in cozying up to powerful stakeholders instead of protecting the public interest.

Ford has been giving his friends whatever they want with no regard for what’s best for Ontario, while some politicians in all parties pull their punches for fear of losing out on potential donations. We are heading to a dangerous place where power is unchecked, and politicians are too busy feathering their own nests to look after the public interest.

Last week, Ontario’s auditor found that investors who bought up parcels of Ontario’s cherished Greenbelt — long before you or I knew it was going to be carved up — stand to make as much as $8.3 billion.

That’s a pretty massive profit for Ford’s friends.

As a former attorney general, I have some serious questions about potential criminality that only an OPP investigation can answer.

The Criminal Code is pretty clear. According to Sec. 122, it’s a breach of trust for a public office holder — including political staff like those named in the auditor’s report — to benefit from the information and position they hold. The “direct access” the auditor found insiders had to information about the Greenbelt sounds like the kind of benefits the law mentions. These actions could cross that line, and the OPP need to investigate.

Let’s be clear — it’s not criminal to propose opening up the Greenbelt.

Even some running for the leadership of my party have said they’d do it, too. And it’s not criminal for individuals in the development industry to make political donations.

But special interests donating to politicians who are directly responsible for making decisions about their multi-million dollar projects creates clear conflicts of interest.

And it’s not just Ford accepting these donations.

It is unacceptable when politicians put their friends’ and donors’ interests above those of everyday Ontarians.

Ford and other politicians talk a good game about being in it for “folks” like you — but who are they really in it for?

Average families trying to buy a home, or multi-millionaires seeking every inside advantage to become billionaires?

Ontarians who can’t access family doctors, or private corporations who want to turn a profit from our health-care system?

Kids in overcrowded classrooms struggling to learn, or publicly traded tutoring companies looking to make a quick buck?

Ontario deserves better than Ford and another generation of politicians who put their friends before you.

You might shrug and say that’s politics. But it’s not. And it shouldn’t be. I’m here to say it must be better. Let’s change the status quo. Together.

— Yasir Naqvi is a former Ontario attorney general, current MP for Ottawa Centre and candidate for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party.