Integrity commissioner to investigate John Tory’s ties to Rogers

Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner has agreed to investigate whether Mayor John Tory’s ties to Rogers put him in a conflict of interest last month when he participated in a council debate on the Toronto COVID-19 road closures.

In a letter Thursday to Adam Chaleff, who filed the ethics complaint against Tory last week, Integrity Commissioner Jonathan Batty confirmed there were « sufficient grounds » to determine whether the Tories breached municipal conflict of interest law.

Batty stressed that he did not conclude that the mayor broke the rules, but determined that Chaleff’s complaint was within his jurisdiction and that there was enough evidence to proceed with an investigation.

Chaleff, a left-leaning civic activist who also filed a high-profile lawsuit against then-Mayor Rob Ford in 2012, released Batty’s letter Friday morning.

« I want to thank the Integrity Commissioner for his quick decision to investigate Mayor Tory’s ties to Rogers, » Chaleff said in a statement.

« Torontoans deserve to know as soon as possible whether their mayor is working exclusively in the public interest or is being unduly influenced by his loyalty to Rogers. »

Tory has denied any wrongdoing in the case.

“When the mayor has conflicts, he has carefully declared them and he had none in this case,” his office said on Tuesday.

In his initial complaint, Chaleff asked the Integrity Commissioner to expedite the investigation so the public can know the result before the Oct. 24 municipal election in which Tory is seeking a third term.

If the commissioner finds grounds to believe the mayor broke the law, Chaleff said Batty is obligated to refer the case to a judge, who can impose penalties on the Tories ranging from a reprimand to removal from office.

However, municipal law requires surveys to be completed by Aug. 19, the last day candidates can register for election. The commissioner cannot refer a case to a judge after this date. This gives the commissioner only three weeks to complete his investigation.

In his letter, Batty said he plans to begin his investigation « immediately » but « cannot guarantee » a completion date until he has had a chance to review all the evidence.

« To best serve the public interest, my investigation must be fair and diligent, as it may result in either the denial of the application or the initiation of legal action, » he said.

As the Star reported earlier this week, Chaleff’s complaint relates to weekend closures of Lake Shore Boulevard West that the city began implementing earlier in the pandemic for the ActiveTO program.

Ahead of a June 15 vote on the future of the program, Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro wrote a letter to the mayor urging him to vote against extending the closures , which he said made it difficult for fans to get to games at the Rogers Centre.

Tory publicly defended Shapiro’s letter and later voted in council for a plan that did not include regular Lake Shore closings.

Chaleff argues the mayor had an indirect financial interest in the matter because he sits on the advisory board of the Rogers Family Trust, which controls Rogers Communications Inc. The telecom giant owns the Jays.

The act, which is provincial law, prohibits the mayor and other members of council who have an indirect financial interest in a matter before council from voting on the matter or trying to influence the outcome of the vote.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto reporter who covers city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Contact him by email at or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr


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