Doug Ford pressed to expand review of appointments
|Toronto Star 26 Jun 2019 at 15:23|
Premier Doug Ford is under pressure to expand a review of Progressive Conservative patronage appointments in the wake of the Dean French nepotism scandal.
French, a close Ford friend, resigned as the premier’s chief of staff last week after it emerged he had awarded six-figure government jobs to his son’s friend and his wife’s cousin.
After revoking those postings, Ford announced Tuesday he was reviewing “all pending appointments” as he scrambles to limit the damage.
On Wednesday, both the opposition New Democrats and the Liberals urged the premier to widen the scope of inquiry into a debacle transfixing Queen’s Park.
“Doug Ford has been making it rain gravy-train tickets and signing off on every single one, from Ron Taverner to Tyler Albrecht,” said NDP MPP Marit Stiles (Davenport).
That was a reference to the premier’s aborted bid to have his friend Taverner, a 72-year-old Toronto police superintendent, installed as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, and French’s attempt to install his son’s 26-year-old lacrosse pal as the province’s agent general in New York.
Stiles wants Ford to recall the standing committee on government agencies and give it a mandate to review of all recent government appointments.
“We can’t trust him to lead a review of the appointments that he has personally signed off on,” the MPP said. “A Doug Ford behind-closed-doors review is useless. We need a public and transparent review of every appointment Doug Ford has made.
“Doug Ford’s gravy-train passengers are being handed buckets of public money, perks and power, while dodging scrutiny and oversight.”
Interim Liberal leader John Fraser wants Ford to call in the integrity commissioner, J. David Wake, to probe the appointments.
“The recent revelations of nepotism and improper influence have led to at least three public appointments being revoked and the premier’s chief of staff resigning,” he said.
“It is important that the public appointment process be clear, fair and without improper influence. Since coming to office, the premier and his government have track record of rewarding their friends.”
Fraser is writing to Wake to broach “possible violations” of the Member’s Integrity Act and the Public Services of Ontario Act.
Under provincial law, “a public servant shall not give preferential treatment to any person or entity, including a person or entity in which the public servant or a member of his or her family or a friend has an interest.”
However, there is no evidence that anyone in the government hired immediate family members for jobs, which is against the law.
Last Thursday, French appointed Albrecht as Ontario’s $164,910-a-year trade representative in New York and his wife’s cousin, Taylor Shields, as the $185,000-a-year Ontario agent general to London, England.
Two other appointees to new foreign postings remain on the job: ex-PC party president Jag Badwal, a realtor, is headed to Dallas, Texas; Earl Provost, a one-time Ontario Liberal party executive director and former chief of staff to the late mayor Rob Ford, is being dispatched to Chicago. Each will earn $164,910 plus expenses.
On Tuesday, . Katherine Pal had been named to the council on Dec. 31, and was set to earn $700 for each of its four meetings held annually.
The chair of the Public Accountants Council is Gavin Tighe, a lawyer who also acts for both French and Ford.
On Wednesday, he told Newstalk 1010’s John Moore that Pal was “a remarkably qualified individual, ” and cautioned against throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to political appointees.
“If a patronage appointment means you appoint someone you know and trust, and who is qualified for a position, then I suppose I am a patronage appointment,” said Tighe, who is paid $166,000 to chair the industry-funded panel.
“I’m not buddies with Doug Ford,” he said. “I’ve had a professional relationship with Doug. I’ve represented him in a number of proceedings.”