December 22, 2015
Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison today released her report into a complaint regarding Daiene Vernile, Member of Provincial Parliament for Kitchener-Centre and Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Member of Provincial Parliament for Peterborough. The complaint was filed by Michael Harris, Member of Provincial Parliament for Kitchener-Conestoga, under section 30 of the Members’ Integrity Act, 1994.
The investigation addressed the allegation that Minister Leal and Ms. Vernile contravened Ontario parliamentary convention by using government resources to promote a federal Liberal candidate at an event announcing provincial funding, and also on social media accounts that were connected to their government-funded constituency websites. Parliamentary convention is a unique feature of the Ontario legislation, finding its core principles in the preamble to the Act. They are in essence generally accepted rules or practices about the appropriate conduct of Members of the Legislative Assembly.
The Commissioner found that neither Minister Leal nor Ms. Vernile breached parliamentary convention.
“While I did not find a breach of parliamentary convention, I continue to be concerned that all MPPs are not paying sufficient attention to their social media activities. Quite simply, they need to think before they link,” said Commissioner Morrison.
“It is disappointing to note that MPPs have been less diligent about ensuring that content accessible through links on their constituency websites, particularly social media, is similarly non-partisan.”
The Commissioner makes four recommendations in the report:
-MPPs should develop policies about the appropriate use of social media for themselves and their staff;
-MPPs with social media accounts linked to their constituency websites should cease posting partisan messages, or remove links between their social media accounts and their constituency websites;
-MPPs should familiarize themselves with established processes for filing a complaint under section 30 of the Act; and
-MPPs who are the subject of a complaint under section 30 should be open and transparent about their conduct during the inquiry.
Under s. 34(2) of the Act, “The Assembly shall consider and respond to the report within 30 days after the day the report is laid before it.”
The full report can be found at www.oico.on.ca under MPP Integrity, Commissioner’s Reports.
An Officer of the Legislative Assembly, the Integrity Commissioner is independent of government.
Cathryn Motherwell, Director