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Details vanish from Ontario MPP investment property disclosures as their value skyrockets

An unpublished decision by a provincial watchdog has removed many details from view of the real estate investments of dozens of candidates vying for re-election, even as those assets surge in value to more than $36 million, a CTV News investigation has found.

Properties that may have once been middle class homes are now worth millions thanks to a housing crisis that has seen property values triple in just ten years, a government report found — and those properties need extra scrutiny, not less, critics say.

“MPPs can not have secret investments because it’s a recipe for corruption ,waste and abuse of the public, and the Integrity Commissioner should not be allowing them to have secret investments,” Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch said.

MPPs disclose their investments to Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner, an independent officer of the legislature, who then decides which properties to disclose to the public as a guard against people in power using their position to benefit themselves.

That has meant disclosing the addresses of investment properties, where the MPPs do not live, use for recreation, or use while doing government business in Toronto.

But in 2018, the disclosures by the Integrity Commissioner for the PC candidate in Willowdale, Stan Cho, showed an investment unit without an address, somewhere on Redpath Avenue, a stretch of about 1 km in midtown Toronto. An analysis by CTV News using HouseSigma’s home valuation tool determined the property is worth about $706,000.

The Integrity Comissioner said that lack of disclosure was a mistake of his office at the time, related to the fact that particular building remained under construction. But by 2021, every property was disclosed to the public without an address, making it impossible for public watchdogs to use those listings alone to determine where MPP properties are and what the impact on them from government policies could be.

The office confirmed to CTV News that a group of MPPs approached the integrity commissioner and asked for more privacy, and he gave it to all of them, almost eliminating what Ontarians can know about what real estate their MPPs invest in.

“Certain MPPs raised concerns during their meetings with him in the fall,” said the Integrity Commissioner staff. “The Commissioner made the decision to omit the addresses prior to the public disclosure statements being finalized and filed.”

That included the dairy farm owned by NDP MPP John Vanthof in Evanturel — something Vanthof said he was surprised to discover, because he put the full details on his disclosure form.

“The first time I heard about the policy change was in my conversation with you yesterday,” he said.

Vanthof said it makes sense that some MPPs have investment properties as public life can be short-lived and it’s unreasonable to ask MPPs to completely divest of their assets. He said he supported disclosure to guard against conflict of interest.

But he said he also sympathized with the argument for privacy, as recently people emboldened amid the convoy protests in Ottawa have approached some of these properties, even though as investments the MPPs are rarely there.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it until during the convoy,” he said.

Cho himself didn’t respond to interview requests from CTV News. Earlier this year the Integrity Commissioner found no wrongdoing in a conflict of interest complaint that the proposed Bradford Bypass had been rerouted to avoid a property owned by Cho’s father. Top Stories

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