TORONTO - Ontario cabinet ministers stayed silent Monday in the wake of a police raid on a provincial government office complex, despite Opposition warnings that thousands of public servants were "being tarred" with the same brush.
Last Thursday, the Ontario Provincial Police anti-rackets branch raided the Macdonald Block, a downtown Toronto tower that houses 13 provincial ministries and agencies and the offices of several cabinet ministers.
Cabinet ministers refused comment Monday, and a spokeswoman for Premier Dalton McGuinty — who's on vacation — said elected officials had nothing to add and all questions should be addressed to provincial police.
Allegations about "irregular" financial dealings between public servants and outside vendors are serious and require a ministerial response, said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.
"This is the time for either the premier or one of his ministers to come forward and reassure the public and those working in the public service who have all been tarred with the same brush about what the realities are," said Hudak.
"I fully expect to see a Liberal minister out here, or the premier himself, discussing exactly what’s happened and the steps that have been taken to restore confidence in the civil service."
The New Democrats said the provincial police should act quickly to clarify which ministries are under investigation.
"This ongoing criminal investigation is extremely disconcerting and casts an unfortunate cloud over all provincial government operations," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"I expect all levels of the McGuinty government to fully co-operate with the OPP in this very serious matter."
However, the police force declined Monday to reveal any more information about the raid or say which ministries were the target of the investigation, and suggested it could be some time before charges are laid.
"These kinds of investigations are complex and deal with a lot of material, and our anti-rackets folks are doing their diligence to make sure that we get it right," said Sgt. Pierre Chamberlain.
The government also declined to say which ministries were the target of the police raid.
"I'm not able to provide that information," said Michael Patton, spokesman for the Ministry of Government Services.
"The investigation is ongoing and we can’t speculate or provide much further comment other than to say the government is fully co-operating with the police."
In fact, Patton was unable to answer any questions, and instead said only that he had some "things to read" to the media, all of which amounted to the fact the provincial police would have to answer questions about the raid on government offices.
Patton was also unable to explain why a cabinet office spokesman said on the weekend that the raid involved only a few ministries, while on Monday the government said it didn't have that information.
A senior government source said Saturday that the police investigation did not involve elected officials or political staff, but no Liberals had commented on the record five days after the raid.
Published reports have said the police raid involved the Ministry of Transportation and the Ontario Realty Corporation, but the government refused to confirm or deny those reports.