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NDP demands director of Vaughan Working Families appear before Government Agencies committee

Last Updated Feb 13, 2020 at 6:48 pm EST

A full page ad placed by Vaughan Working Families in four national newspapers suggests parents support the government during a tense round of contract talks with provincial teachers’ unions. CITYNEWS

The NDP is demanding that a Ford-appointed LCBO board member appear before the Government Agencies committee after it emerged that he is also the director of an organization that ran full page anti-teacher ads in four major newspapers.

NDP critic for ethics and accountability Taras Natyshak is calling on Quinto Annibale, director of Vaughan Working Families, to appear before the committee for questioning, saying they did not get enough answers when he appeared last year.

“Mr. Annibale appeared before committee last year where my colleagues grilled him on his conservative connections but it’s clear now that we didn’t get to the bottom of that story and get the full story from Mr. Annibale,” Natyshak said at a press conference at Queen’s Park Thursday. “If Mr. Annibale is going to sit on a public board, control public assets and collect a public pay cheque, he needs to answer questions about his connections to these attack ads.”

Vaughan Working Families ran ads costing over $200,000 in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the National Post and the Toronto Sun at the beginning of February. They contained messaging suggesting parents support the government during a tense round of contract talks with provincial teachers’ unions. Natyshak said the ads “echo the government’s talking points on the labour dispute with teachers”

Annibale was appointed by the Conservatives as vice-chair of the LCBO last April and multiple media outlets confirmed his connection to Vaughan Working Families last week.

Natyshak said that they need to know what Annibale’s “motives are” and who he is working with, saying his appointment is part of a “pattern” of public appointments that were made by the Ford government because of their connections to the Premier, his inner circle and the PC party “either as failed candidates or large donors.”

The committee, in which the PC’s have a majority, must vote on calling Annibale to appear.

“It will be up to the PC members of the committee … maybe they’ll find it in their hearts, maybe this egregious breach of the Elections Act — potentially — will compel them to do the right thing,” said Natyshak. “We hope that this government takes this issue — a potential and alleged violation of the Elections Act — as seriously as we do in the Ontario NDP.”

Natyshak also said Annibale has been a donor to Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Lecce’s office has said he was “not involved or aware of the creation of these advertisements.”

Last week, the NDP called for Elections Ontario to “investigate possible collusion” between Vaughan Working Families and Doug Ford’s PCs.

NDP MPP Peter Tabuns said at the time that the situation doesn’t “pass the smell test” and “there’s enough here to justify an investigation.”

CityNews has reached out to the Premier’s Office for a statement and is awaiting a response.