Takhar, an immigrant and successful businessman, said running for provincial office in 2003 was “an opportunity of a lifetime to make a real difference” in a country that was good to him.
“In my professional life, I reached heights that I never could have dreamed when I came to Canada,” Takhar said, his voice quavering with emotion. “I got married here, raised my children here.”
But it was his business - the transportation company Chalmers Group - and an April 2005 meeting there with his wife over financing their daughter’s education that led to him breaking the Members Integrity Act.
So did a decision to make the trustee of his business - placed in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest - the treasurer of his riding association in Mississauga Centre.
After a seven-month investigation, Integrity Commissioner Coulter Osborne said Takhar’s actions -- which failed to keep the required arm’s length relationship between politics and his business -- were “negligent” and “egregiously reckless.”
Takhar acknowledged his errors and noted the report also found there was no personal financial gain, but has been fighting opposition calls for his resignation for months.
He’s also been vigorously defended by Premier Dalton McGuinty in what opposition leaders called a double standard, noting McGuinty in opposition was not shy about calling for the resignations of Progressive Conservative ministers who broke the same act.
“What the public wants to see is one set of consistent standards,” said Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory, arguing that Takhar’s breach warrants his firing by McGuinty.
“If he is not going to agree with the standards that we are suggesting, and with the one, indeed, that he articulated in the past, he has an obligation to -tell us what the standard is,” Tory said as Takhar left the legislative chamber.
“It is about the public understanding what the standards of this premier are.”
NDP Leader Howard Hampton echoed Tory’s remarks and noted a number of newspaper editorials have also called for Takhar’s resignation or firing.
Progressive Conservative MPP Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln) said Takhar’s decision to leave the debate shortly after it began suggests he doesn’t take it seriously.
“It was very revealing that Minister Takhar and McGuinty high-tailed it out of the house without listening to John Tory’s remarks or Howard Hampton.”
The debate continues today and Monday.