Yes, this looks pretty fishy. But let’s be fair. Who among us hasn’t taken a meeting with the one member of a hospital board that just happens to have done millions of dollars worth of business with our family’s company without the knowledge of the hospital and then taken two tries for our spokespeople to explain why? Happens to the best of us. I did it three times this morning alone.
Ford’s meeting on May 2 with Richard Wachsberg, chairman and co-founder of Apollo Health and Beauty Care, was revealed through a freedom of information request for the premier’s official appointment calendar.
Apollo manufactures generic-brand products such as shampoo, body wash and sunscreen for supermarkets and department stores that include Loblaw and WalMart.
Deco, the Ford family business, made labels for Apollo’s products. Apollo conducted a “large volume of business with Deco year-after-year over the course of many years,” Ford said in a sworn statement filed in a civil court proceeding, cited in a report by Toronto’s integrity commissioner in 2016.
Apollo has not been a Deco client since November 2015, Ford’s press secretary Ivana Yelich said in an email to CBC News.
Asked for the topic of Ford’s meeting with Wachsberg, Yelich said last Thursday that it was “to discuss our government’s open for business agenda.”
On Friday, after further questions from CBC about the meeting, Yelich said incorrect information had been provided by one of Ford’s staff. She said the premier actually met Wachsberg in his capacity as a volunteer member of the board of directors of Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation.
“Mr. Wachsberg is a champion for emergency medicine and they discussed their shared desire to end hallway healthcare,” said Yelich in an e-mail.
The hospital foundation is raising money to renovate the emergency department at Toronto General, and Wachsberg is “part of the cabinet working on raising philanthropic funds,” said Tennys Hanson, CEO of the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation.
“We were not aware that Mr. Wachsberg had set up this meeting but as an involved member of the board and the cabinet for the emergency department he would certainly have full information about the project and what is needed,” said Hanson in an email Tuesday to CBC News. “All of our board members can be helpful in ensuring that members of the government are aware of these needs.”
To be clear, there’s nothing directly illegal about this. But considering how the last few months have gone and that Ford’s dealings with this very same company have run afoul of the city of Toronto’s integrity commissioner in the past, it’s not a great look.