Premier Doug Ford’s government faced pointed questions in the legislature on Thursday, following its announcement that all three of its appointees to the Ottawa Police Services Board had resigned.
Ontario’s Solicitor General announced the resignations Wednesday after being asked about the fact one of the provincial appointees, Robert Swaita, had attended the convoy protest that occupied downtown Ottawa for three weeks.
Swaita confirmed in a social media post Thursday that he had attended “well before the protest was declared illegal” and said he never made donations to the convoy.
“I want to be crystal clear — I did nothing wrong,” Swaita wrote in the statement posted to the Facebook page of KS on the Keys, a restaurant he owns.
Swaita said he attended the protest “on two occasions when the convoy first arrived in Ottawa.” He said he spoke to the former chair and vice-chair of the police board about the visits and his “frustrations.”
“I wanted to better understand the growing frustration that was being felt by many Canadians,” he said. “I heard many tragic stories of suicide, loneliness, and job loss.”
Resignations raise larger questions, MPPs say
Swaita’s statement also addressed the concerns of local MPPs like Joel Harden who questioned the Ford government at Queen’s Park Thursday.
“Does the premier know if Mr. Swaita shared sensitive information with the organizers of a three-week occupation? Is the premier concerned about that?” asked Harden, the NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre, during question period.
“Is the premier prepared to have accountability over that? Will he speak to the residents of Ottawa today or will he continue to be silent?”
Ford did not respond to Harden’s question. Instead, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the province was working with the City of Ottawa and supported the “new direction” the city had taken with the police board.
As for Swaita, he said in his statement he “was never privy to operational information of the Ottawa Police Service.”
“Further, I never once shared confidential information of the [police board] with members of the public,” Swaita said.
‘More questions than answers’
In a press release from the Liberal caucus framed as a list of questions to the Progressive Conservative government about its handling of the protests, Ottawa-Vanier MPP Lucille Collard also referred to the resignations — or firings, as she described them.
“The firing of these three political appointees raises more questions than answers for the people of Ottawa,” Collard said in the release.
Swaita said in his statement his resignation was in response to the recent overhaul of the police services board and the resignation of former police chief Peter Sloly.
Jones has not said if Swaita was asked to resign.
She did say the province is currently undertaking the “rigourous” process of appointing new members to the board and will announce the new appointees in the coming days.
The board no longer has any members who were in place before the protest, after city council ousted former chair Coun. Diane Deans in mid-February, sparking a series of resignations.
It presently lacks quorum, with only three of its seven positions filled.
Collard told CBC on Wednesday she wanted to see a more transparent and accountable appointment process, as well as an investigation into the larger political response to the truck protest.