Ontario government staffer out of a job after $100 donation to Ottawa blockade, others under scrutiny
The director of communications in the Ontario ministry responsible for enforcing the law is out of a job after she was tied to a $100 donation supporting the convoy blockading Ottawa streets.
Marion Isabeau-Ringuette is among several government staffers and associates under scrutiny after their names or identifying information were found in a pair of leaks of some 100,000 donations to American crowdfunding website GiveSendGo.
“For the communications director to be financially supporting an unlawful, illegal occupation is definitely concerning,” said NDP MPP Catherine Fife.
“Who was donating, why were they donating, and did this contribute to the non-action that happened on the ground in Ottawa?” she said.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s spokesperson Ivana Yelich did not elaborate in a brief statement to reporters.
“Ms. Isabeau-Ringuette no longer works for the Ontario government,” Yelich said. “We are not commenting any further as this is a staffing matter.”
Isabeau-Ringuette worked as a political staffer as recently as Sunday for Ontario’s Solicitor-General, the position that oversees police and other law enforcement in Ontario.
The $100 donation was listed as anonymous on GiveSendGo, but in a pair of leaked documents totalling nearly 100,000 donations, one line reads “M.R.” with an email address that contains Isabeau-Ringuette’s name.
Also in the data is an employee of the federal correctional service and the name of another Ontario government employee. The latter only said, "No comment" when contacted on the phone by CTV News Toronto.
A pollster with ties to the governing Progressive Conservative party was accused in an NDP news release of donating, as a line in the spreadsheet includes his email and name. But in a response to CTV News Toronto, the pollster denied donating.
Even small donors to the blockade, should they continue donating, run the risk of frozen bank accounts, due to the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act, said Toronto lawyer Nainesh Kotak.
“Under this enactment I would suggest the government could freeze bank accounts if they chose to do so,” he said. “That’s concerning. The targets should be the bigger players.”
Kotak said he believes that the government had the tools to deal with the protest earlier, but didn’t. Now, revoking insurance or auto-related fines could take away the livelihood of anyone using those trucks for a long period, he said.
“We’ve gone from zero enforcement to using a bazooka,” he said. “These are extraordinary steps.”
Yunkang Yang, a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics at George Washington University, said in the United States right-wing politicians have been using the convoy to energize their base and whip up support.
“A lot of influential right-wing media have been promoting narratives about that for a long time. They have very big audiences. People from all walks of life on the political right might be a viewer of their content on a regular basis,” including those on both sides of the border, he said.
“That might be why they are really sucked into this.”
A second leak of GiveSendGo data based only on the "Adopt-a-Trucker" page, was released online dealing with some 7,500 names. The largest donation in that set was listed as being from an American, at US$7,865.19.
The number of Canadian donors was slightly higher than the American donors, at 47.5 per cent to 47 per cent.
However, Canadians donated more, at about US$321,000, while Americans donated about $200,000.
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