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NRI, Transportation Minister Takhar will stay at his post


Takhar learned lesson, keeps job: McGuinty

Toronto, Feb. 13, 2006

Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar got assurances from his boss Monday that he won't lose his job for running afoul of the province's Integrity Act, but angry opposition critics say they won't rest until he's kicked out of cabinet.

Takhar was "egregiously reckless" when he attended a meeting last year at the corporate offices of the company he once headed, concludes a report by Integrity Commissioner Coulter Osborne tabled Monday in the legislature.

Takhar touched off a political firestorm last April when he was photographed by a Conservative staffer at the Chalmers Group of Companies office in Mississauga, Ont., where he was chief executive before entering politics.

Politicians are required under the province's Integrity Act to place their assets in a blind trust to ensure they avoid conflicts of interest, and also to inform the commissioner whenever they find themselves in a potential violation of the act.

Takhar also failed to ensure the independence of a trustee who was assigned to manage his personal business affairs, a requirement for all ministers, Osborne's report concludes. The trustee later became treasurer of Takhar's riding association, but Osborne was never notified.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said Takhar learned an important lesson and should not be punished any further.

"(The mistake) does not in any way shape or form involve any use, misuse, abuse of taxpayer dollars and in those circumstances . . . I am comfortable maintaining (Takhar in cabinet)," McGuinty said.

But Conservative Leader John Tory said he's not about to drop the issue, and wants Takhar out of cabinet.

"We're not through with this yet, we have a debate that has to be held in the legislature on this under the rules, and I will have more questions for (McGuinty)," Tory said.

"What he seemed to be saying in (the legislature) is you actually have to steal money or misappropriate money in order to be found to have engaged in conduct that is worthy of being removed from the cabinet."

Osborne's report stopped short of recommending further sanctions against Takhar, and McGuinty said that was good enough for him.

"I'll quote from the integrity commissioner: `I have to recognize the minister did not go about intentionally trying to short-circuit the system,"' McGuinty said.

"He then goes on to conclude, `It would be unfair to sanction the minister beyond issuing a reprimand."'

But Tory said the integrity commissioner didn't specifically comment on whether Takhar should be kicked out of cabinet, since it's not his place to do so.

Tory said he wrote Osborne to clarify whether the minister should stay at his post; the commissioner replied that he had no jurisdiction to advise the premier on his cabinet.

Because he broke the rules, Takhar should go, Tory said.

For his part, Takhar refused to answer questions from the media Monday about whether he ever considered resigning from cabinet.

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NRI Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar