Toronto, January 17, 2006
Integrity Commissioner, Coulter Osborne has issued
a reprimand report on Transport Minister Harinder
Takhar that he committed a "serious" breach
of the Members' Integrity Act by failing to maintain
a proper arm's-length relationship between his business
and political interests. After becoming a cabinet
in October 23,
2003,, Takhar was obliged to
place all of his business holdings in a blind trust
maintained by an independent trustee and not be involved
in its day-to-day operation.
The Progressive Conservatives released a photograph
of Liberal Takhar chatting on a cellphone outside
the Chalmers Group of Companies in Mississauga. A
Conservative party operative armed with camera and
notebook reported Takhar spent more than three hours
at the firm, which makes transmission systems and
hospital products. Apparently someone had tipped off
the Conservatives that Takhar was still involved in
the firm of which he was president before entering
The Conservatives said their evidence proved Takhar
violated rules intended to distance cabinet ministers
from business interests. They demanded he step aside
while Takhar's connections are investigated. Takhar
insisted he was merely seeking $14,000 from the trust
to help cover his daughter's university tuition.
The Integrity Commissioner Coulter Osborne said Takhar
violated that directive by appointing the chief financial
officer of his riding association as the person responsible
for handling his business affairs. Osborne said in
his 35-page report. Osborne also described Takhar's
decision to hold a meeting at his company's office
as "egregiously reckless."
"There is ... no doubt that the minister was
egregiously reckless in participating in the April
29 meeting at Chalmers," Osborne states in his
According to Osborne's report that Premier Dalton
McGuinty should reprimand Takhar. The inference seemed
to be that Takhar should be removed from cabinet -
and that would be a fitting punishment in this case.Osborne,
though, stopped short of calling for Takhar to pay
a higher "political price," such as resignation.
Premier Dalton McGuinty says he won't take any action
against Takhar because his minister has already been
punished enough as a result of Osborne's report."It
is clear the minister demonstrated a lapse in judgment
in this circumstance," McGuinty's statement reads.
"I continue to have confidence in Minister Takhar
as my minister of transportation and as a valued member
of my cabinet and caucus."
Joseph Jeyanayangam - was appointed as the treasurer
of Takhar's riding association in December 2004 after
he had served as the chief financial officer of Takhar's
2003 election campaign. Jeyanayangam is also chief
financial officer of the company in question, the
According to Toronto Sun report, We at the Sun broke
the original allegations of Takhar's visit to his
company in a front page story on June 12. (Later I
was interviewed by Coulter as part of his probe.)
Although the visit to the company took place April
29, Jeyanayagam saw fit to inform the integrity commissioner
of the visit only on June 10 -- the day I called Takhar
At the time, Takhar told me he was at the company
to discuss details of his daughter's education with
his wife, who is the company's CEO. His daughter was
planning to go to university in the U.K. and Takhar
wanted to know if he could afford it. Osborne clearly
has problems with that scenario, and with the notes
Jeyanayagam produced to back up this story.
"Perhaps my skepticism is in part caused by
my concern as to why this meeting at Chalmers was
held in the first place and why Mr. Jeyanayagam was
invited to participate," he said.
"After the meeting had concluded, for reasons
that I find somewhat bewildering, Mr. Jeyanayagam
concluded his notes by referring to Mrs. Takhar making
lunch arrangements, the minister going out to make
some mobile phone calls and to the fact that Mr. Jeyanayagam
went out to the parking lot with the minister,"
Osborne said in the report.
According tp Toronto Star, he also found Takhar attended
a riding association meeting in December 2004 at Chalmers
Group, the firm in which he has controlling interest.
The company office is listed as the riding association's
address and Takhar maintains a parking space there,
despite having given up his title as president and
Takhar also had just vague recollection of attending
his business office something strictly forbidden
under the Act "on a number of other occasions"
besides a controversial April 29 visit last year,
during which he was photographed.
But it is also quite clear that Takhar broke rules.
Rules that are in place to instil confidence in the
integrity of an MPP, and particularly a cabinet minister.
As Conservative Leader John Tory said: "If you
are guilty of a lapse of judgment, if you are guilty
of this kind of conduct, what does it take around
here for you to lose your job in cabinet?"