Documents which caused a stir for Sault MPP David Orazietti at Queen's Park Monday were actually unfinished, draft copies sent in error to the Progressive Conservatives and seized upon by the opposition to create political drama, Orazietti has told SooToday.
"The opposition was sent, in error, a draft memo by Government and Consumer Services staff to their (Progressive Conservative) constituency office…the individual who sent the memo was working with that constituency office to provide support on another issue, and in error sent that memo," Orazietti said.
"The individual then attempted to recall that information several times, however the Conservative member (Jim McDonell) chose, rather than to understand that, to put into a media release."
"Instead of ignoring it as an error, they chose to make it a public issue and ask questions in question period about it."
"It was a draft memo that would then go to the deputy minister for sign off, then to me for review so I could see the recommendations that the ministry staff were giving to me, so when this issue was raised in the Legislature today, it had been sent in error, I was not aware of it, I had never seen the memo," Orazetti said.
The Progressive Conservative party raised concerns in the Legislature Monday over documents which, in their draft form, appear to show appointments made to boards by Orazietti in his role as Minister of Government and Consumer Services.
Jim McDonell, the Ontario PC Critic for Government and Consumer Services, has filed a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner and called for Orazietti to step down as minister.
“Out of the four recent appointments the Minister of Government and Consumer Services has made, against public service advice, three of them are his constituents (from Sault Ste. Marie)," McDonell said Monday.
A draft document shows the three constituents appointed by Orazietti to various boards appear to be Danny Viotto, and lawyer Ben Pascuzzi, to the Ontario Film Review Board (OFRB) and Ian McMillan (Tourism Sault Ste. Marie executive director) to the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO).
"Danny Viotto did not move ahead with serving on the Ontario Film Review Board and he made that choice for personal reasons," Orazietti said.
Pascuzzi's appointment to the OFRB and McMillan's appointment to TICO went through.
"I respect staff and the advice they provide and we're looking for the best qualified candidates to serve on all provincial boards, and I encourage Sault Ste. Marie residents to actively participate on all the Ontario boards," Orazietti said.
Interested individuals can check out board membership possibilities on the Ontario Public Appointments Secretariat website.
Concern appeared to come not only from the Progressive Conservatives, but also from staff within Orazietti's own ministry in the draft memo, over an appointment Orazietti allegedly made to the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO).
The concern was that the ministry has too many realtors on the real estate board, and not enough objective representation from outside the real estate profession.
"There is no one from Sault Ste. Marie that has been appointed to the Real Estate Council of Ontario," Orazietti said.
"I had not seen staff's recommendation about how they felt about any individual regarding real estate."
"As we all know (the draft reads), it has been until very recently a long standing government practice and policy to appoint people from outside the regulated profession to boards," wrote Frank Denton, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services assistant deputy minister.
"To appoint an additional regulated professional rather than someone who brings an independent perspective runs against the basic theory of the model."
"I appreciate that we take direction but I believe MGCS needs to give best advice on why this new practice may not be optimal. I myself am not certain that the minister has been given this clear advice directly from the ministry since so much of the appointment process is mediated through the MO (Minister's Office)."
A separate, second draft document from the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services reads "the Minister is seeking to appoint an industry representative to the Real Estate Council of Ontario's (RECO's) board of directors."
"There is concern…that appointment of an additional regulated professional to the board, rather than someone outside of the industry, is contrary to the practice of balancing interests on the board."
The second memo reads "the recent RECO candidate selection package (prepared by government staff) identified four suitable candidates from outside the regulated real estate profession. However, the Minister's office has advised that they will be seeking to appoint a member who is a practicing real estate agent."
But again, all of this was in draft form, sent in error from an Orazietti ministry staffer to a Progressive Conservative MPP's office.
"I think it's unfortunate and I think it demonstrates how desperate the Conservatives are to attempt to be critical of the work that is being done by very respectable community citizens on these boards for Ontarians," Orazietti said.