TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s office refused for a second day to address media reports that an allegation of inappropriate sexual behaviour was behind the abrupt resignation of a prominent cabinet minister last week, prompting opposition parties to call for answers on the matter.
Jim Wilson, who was minister of economic development, left cabinet and the Progressive Conservative caucus on Friday evening, with the premier’s office saying he resigned to seek treatment for addiction issues.
But published reports citing unnamed sources said Monday that Wilson left after the allegation of inappropriate sexual behaviour was levelled against him.
The veteran legislator has not responded to the allegation, nor has he made any public remarks since his departure. He has also not returned multiple requests for comment.
Ford’s office did not confirm or deny the published allegation when pressed repeatedly for comment.
Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, however, has indicated that a third-party investigation involving Wilson is underway.
“My understanding is that swift action was taken, he resigned from caucus immediately and an investigation is put in place,” she said during an appearance in Ottawa on Monday. “I’m not in a position to know fully what the allegations were.”
MacLeod’s office did not offer further details, referring questions to Ford’s staff.
NDP legislator Sara Singh called Tuesday for Ford to clear the air around Wilson’s departure, saying the government needs to clarify whether there is or isn’t a third-party investigation underway.
“Mr. Ford didn’t tell Ontarians the truth about the departure of his most senior minister, and that’s wrong,” she said. “For Ford to refuse to face the press or the public, and stay entirely silent on this issue, is wrong.”
Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said while the government must respect the privacy of alleged victims, clarity and due process must be key elements of any investigation.
“Now you’re in a situation where everybody’s trying to sort out what’s going on,” he said. “You’ve got the premier’s office saying nothing … it creates unnecessary uncertainty which is not fair to anybody.”
Ford’s office has only noted that “generally speaking” in cases where allegations are brought forward, a process is activated immediately.
“We provide staff with support and reassurance of their right to work in an environment that is free of harassment,” it said in a statement. “To protect the identity of any individual who brings forward an allegation, we would not comment on particulars.”
Wilson, who has been a legislator for 28 years, stepped down from his post on Friday hours after appearing with Ford at a border crossing near Sarnia, Ont., where they unveiled a sign advertising Ontario as “Open for Business.”
Ford announced a cabinet shuffle on Monday.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press