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Union wants Liberals to speak to police probe

TORONTO - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union called on the Liberal government Tuesday to "come clean" about a police raid on provincial offices and lift the cloud of suspicion hanging over workers.

TORONTO - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union called on the Liberal government Tuesday to "come clean" about a police raid on provincial offices and lift the cloud of suspicion hanging over workers.

At the same time, two cabinet ministers finally broke the government's silence on the corruption investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police anti-rackets branch, but only to defend their staff.

The probe was triggered by complaints about "irregular" transactions between some public servants and outside vendors, but no one will confirm any details.

Neither the police nor the government will say which ministries were the target of the raid, which means everyone is being tarred with the same brush, said OPSEU president Smokey Thomas.

"They should come clean on that sort of stuff," said Thomas.

"Everyone who works in that building now is suspect. Their neighbours are looking at them funny and that’s just not fair."

Both Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and Environment Minister John Gerretsen said staff from their ministries were not the subject of last week's police raid on the Macdonald Block, which houses 13 government ministries and agencies, but offered no other details.

"I have not had the benefit of a briefing from police," said Duncan.

"I was able to ascertain that there were, to the best of our knowledge, no one in my ministry that was involved in this."

Gerretsen made a similar statement Tuesday while Attorney General Chris Bentley refused comment.

Last Saturday, a government source said the investigation by the force's anti-rackets branch did not involve any elected officials or political staff.

However, no one from the Liberal cabinet will go on the record to say which ministries were the subject of the last Thursday's police raid.

"I think that’s unconscionable in itself," said Thomas. "We’re told by the government that none of our members are involved. They should clear the air and say what’s really going on."

The Opposition said by not speaking up the Liberals are allowing thousands of civil servants to remain under a cloud of suspicion while the criminal investigation is conducted.

"We need a senior minister or the premier to come here quick and explain to families what exactly is going on," said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.

The New Democrats said the silence from the Liberals about the police corruption probe undermines confidence in the government.

"The government needs to give some answers to all the questions out there about this OPP raid," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

"The longer the government keeps this whole thing under a dark cloud, then not only is everybody being looked at with suspicion, but the entire public of Ontario loses confidence in its government."

The OPP has not yet laid any charges in connection with last week's raid on the provincial government offices.