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NDP wants Elections Ontario to investigate donations to PCs by vaccine clinic company directors | CBC News

The Ontario NDP is raising red flags over political donations made to Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party by the directors of a company that got a sole-source provincial contract to run vaccine clinics. 

All four board members of a company called FH Health made the maximum allowable donations to the Ontario PCs within a few days of each other in September, according to Elections Ontario records. The government awarded FH Health a contract to offer COVID-19 booster shots at 10 clinics in the Toronto area earlier this month. 

The news was first reported by the online publication Queen’s Park Today.  

Other people connected to FH Health also made maximum donations to the PC Party in the same short time frame, including the wives of two company directors, as well as a brother-in-law and business colleagues, the NDP revealed Thursday. 

The PC Party received a total of $42,600 in September from the four board members and 10 others with links to the company. Ontario law allows an individual to donate no more than $3,300 annually to each political party.  

Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott, joined by Toronto Mayor John Tory, visited the mass vaccination clinic at the Toronto Zoo on Jan. 12. The clinic is one of 10 in the Greater Toronto Area being operated by the company FH Health, under a contract with the provincial government. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The pattern of donations appears “shady,” said the NDP’s ethics and accountability critic Taras Natyshak.

“If that was done in a coordinated fashion through the corporation or through the PC party, then it potentially breaks the law,” Nayshak said during a news conference on Thursday. 

“When you’ve got executives making the maximum donation and their family members making the maximum donation all around the same time, that isn’t just a fluke,” he said. 

Ontario’s campaign finance laws make it illegal for companies to provide money to individuals to in turn donate to a political party, and also make it illegal for parties to accept any such donation. 

“We follow all rules and guidelines set out by Elections Ontario and the Election Finances Act,” said a PC Party statement issued Thursday. 

Corporations and unions have been banned from donating to Ontario’s political parties since 2017. It is also illegal for companies or unions to provide money to individuals for political contributions. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

FH Health chief of staff Patrick Kasebzarif was quoted Wednesday by Queen’s Park Today as saying the individuals made donations “on their own and most certainly not at the behest or suggestion of the company.”

CBC News asked FH Health Thursday morning to respond to the latest allegations.

The New Democrats are calling on the province’s auditor general to investigate the awarding of the vaccine clinic contract to FH Health. The NDP also wants the chief electoral officer to probe whether the donations broke Ontario’s campaign finance laws.

“It’s egregious and it deserves to be investigated,” said Natyshak. “It looks sketchy, it looks fishy. It looks potentially like a quid pro quo. You scratch my back, I scratch yours.” 

The Elections Ontario database shows the following contributions to the Ontario PC Party in September from FH Health board members: 

  • $3,300: Melody Adhami-Dorrani (president).
  • $3,300: Sepehr Seyedi (chair).
  • $3,300: Michael Kimel (treasurer).   
  • $3,300: David Diamond (director).

There are also $3,300 donations to the PC party, all registered in the Elections Ontario database in September, from Kimel’s wife, father, brother and sister-in-law, as well as Diamond’s wife, according to the NDP’s research. 

These donations to the Ontario PC Party are reported in the Elections Ontario database. Researchers for the NDP established the connections between the donors and the company FH Health, which won a sole-source contract to operate COVID-19 vaccination clinics. (Ontario NDP)

One of the 10 immunization clinics run by FH Health is at the Toronto Zoo, which Ford toured earlier this month along with Toronto Mayor John Tory and Health Minister Christine Elliott. 

The decision to award the vaccine clinic contract to the company was made by provincial government staff, not by Ford’s cabinet minister overseeing vaccine logistics, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, said a spokesperson.

“The Ministry of the Solicitor General entered into an emergency procurement with FH Health to establish additional vaccine clinics, to urgently accelerate boosters for education workers before the return of in-person learning,” said Jones’s spokesperson, Stephen Warner, in an email. 

Before getting the contract, FH Health had not conducted vaccinations but had run some COVID-19 testing sites. Ontario Health awarded the company a contract for mobile testing, through a competitive bidding process. 

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