The RCMP is investigating a group that launched an ad campaign attacking Ontario teachers last year.

Vaughan Working Families took out full-page ads in the Star and other major newspapers in Feb. 2020 in advance of province-wide teachers’ strikes. The ads were an apparent contravention of the Election Finances Act, according to Elections Ontario.

A spokesperson for the RCMP confirmed the investigation is ongoing and said there would be no further comment.

The provincial NDP raised the RCMP investigation in the Ontario legislature Tuesday morning, asking Ford and Lecce if “they’d like to tell Ontarians what they know about these attack ads.”

At the time, the offices of Premier Doug Ford and education minister Stephen Lecce denied they had any involvement in the ads, which appeared amid tough contract negotiations between his government and the province’s teachers.

Colour advertisements from Vaughan Working Families appeared in the Star, the Globe and Mail, the National Post and the Toronto Sun proclaiming “Teachers’ Union leaders are risking student success.” The ad included a stock photo of a woman holding up a “provincial report card” that contained several grammatical errors.

The Star later apologized for running the ad.

“Teachers were under attack from the Ford government, and they got some help in that attack from Vaughan Working Families in the form of an advertising blitz,” said NDP MPP Peter Tabuns. “Mr. Ford and Mr. Lecce should tell Ontarians everything they know about these ads that came directly from their insider donors and buddies.”

The NDP described developer Michael DeGasperis as the chair of Vaughan Working Families, which prior media reports say is connected to a company called Vaughan Health Campus of Care as well as a charity called Vaughan Health Care Foundation.

The Canada Revenue Agency’s charities directorate shows DeGasperis is a director and the president of Vaughan Health Care Foundation.

A Globe and Mail story from February reported DeGasperis is the president of Vaughan Health Campus of Care.

DeGasperis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeGasperis was one of the land developers highlighted in a recent Star/National Observer investigation that explored the money, power and influence behind the government’s push to build Highway 413.

The investigation showed that eight of Ontario’s major land developers own 3,300 acres of prime real estate conservatively valued at nearly half a billion dollars near the route of the proposed highway. The value of those lands could rise dramatically if the highway goes ahead.

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DeGasperis hosted Ford and Lecce in a private luxury suite at an NHL game in Miami in Dec. 2018.

Spokespeople for Ford and Lecce have said both politicians paid for their own tickets to the game and no government business was discussed.

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