The Dalton McGuinty Liberal party is beginning to feel the heat over the developing Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla nanny scandal. Two Toronto newspapers known to be staunch supporters of the Liberals are now turning their journalistic searchlights on the two Ontario cabinet ministers who have know of the allegations for about two weeks. To its credit the Star was the first to report and the Globe and Mail soon followed suit.
Labour Minister Peter Fonseca and Education Minister Kathleen Wynne attended a public meeting at which they learned that two live-in caregivers, Magdalene Gordo and Richelyn Tongson, “were allegedly forced to work in Ms. Dhalla’s home up to 16 hours a day, five days a week, for just $1.56 an hour—well below the province’s minimum wage of $9.50 an hour.” The nannies also claimed their passports were seized, they worked unpaid overtime and were forced to do non-nanny jobs such as washing cars, shining shoes and cleaning family-owned chiropractic clinics. As we have learned, these nannies were employed by the household shared by Ruby Dhalla, her brother and her mother.
As a direct result of the controversy, Ruby Dhalla is stepping down from her job as critic for youth and multiculturalism. Many now believe it would be proper for Labour Minister Peter Fonseca and, perhaps, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne to relinquish their cabinet posts. After all, these two heard allegations of illegal activities against one of our most vulnerable communities and, apparently, did not immediately notify the requisite authorities.
Questions in the Ontario legislature shook up the government, but did little to shed more light on this situation. Neither cabinet minister was able to offer a creditable explanation for their shameful inaction.
In Question Period yesterday, New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo asked Mr. Fonseca, “The question is: Will you stand up for the Liberal Party or will you stand up for workers in Ontario? Will you penalize Ruby Dhalla? Will you put Ruby Dhalla in jail?”
A visibly rattled Mr. Fonseca said that it is not his job to direct investigators in the Ministry of Labour. He said he gave the nannies information on how to themselves launch a formal complaint.
In a shameful attempt to shift blame, Mr. Fonseca then accused federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney of ignoring his pleas to fix the caregiver program. According to newspaper reports, he claimed that he spoke to Mr. Kenney after he heard the caregivers’ stories, and told him about the shortcomings in the program. Here’s a quote from the Globe and Mail:
…his attempt to deflect the matter backfired slightly, when Mr. Kenney's office sent an e-mail during Question Period to Ontario MPP Lisa MacLeod, to set the record straight.
‘If there is any confusion, Minister Fonseca has never raised the issue of Magdalene Gordo and Richelyn Tongson with Minister Kenney,’ according to the briefing notes. ‘Nor has he or his staff raised it with Immigration … officials. Fonseca spoke to Kenney a month ago to talk about the program generally; they haven't spoken since and he's never discussed the case with us or our officials.’
Is this not a deliberate attempt on the part of Labour Minister Peter Fonseca to deceive the Legislature? And is there not a scrap of honour to be found within the Liberal caucus, who to a person offered not the mildest censure of Mr. Fonseca’s behaviour?
Someone said that we get the government we deserve, but no one deserves this gang at Queen’s Park.Ω