Ford rewards key Tory adviser with $348K patronage job to curb hospital overcrowding
|Toronto Star 06 Jul 2018 at 10:55|
Premier Doug Ford has quietly appointed a key Progressive Conservative ally to a $348,000-a-year patronage job to oversee a new panel tackling hospital overcrowding.
Hours after been sworn in June 29, Ford convened his first cabinet meeting where one of 37 orders of business was naming Dr. Rueben Devlin to lead the new “Premier’s council on improving healthcare and ending hallway medicine.”
“The chair shall be paid the sum of $348,000 per annum. The chair shall be eligible for reimbursement of expenses incurred in their work on the council,” said a cabinet order-in-council of the three-year post released Friday.
Devlin’s appointment was made at the same meeting where Ford parted ways with former TD Bank chair Ed Clark, who earned $1-a-year to be former premier Kathleen Wynne’s business adviser and privatization czar.
Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod defended the appointment.
“I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone in Ontario that Rueben Devlin was going to be appointed to that position,” said MacLeod, noting Devlin, a member of Ford’s inner circle, has been advising the new premier on health care for months.
“We were very clear on the campaign trail we wanted to draw from his expertise on the health-care field. We hired somebody who we campaign on over a several-month period,” the minister said.
“That was a promise we made and a promise we kept.”
Devlin will earn more than Ford, who makes $208,974 as premier, and Health Minister Christine Elliott, who is paid $165,851.
“He is going to be worth every penny and we’re going to see that in the results,” said MacLeod.
Indeed, Ford promised in the campaign that he would cut health-care wait times and end the practice of “hallway medicine” where patients are left in corridors because of staffing shortages.
He also repeatedly said that the widely respected Devlin would be his main adviser on addressing the problem.
For 17 years, until the end of 2016, he was president of Humber River Hospital and oversaw its development into one of the most high-tech, health-care facilities in North America,
Devlin, a surgeon and former president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, was not immediately available Friday, but told the Star’s Theresa Boyle last month that he is eager to introduce more innovation into the system.
“There is a concept that demand for health care is infinite. That’s not true. It’s not infinite. It’s just that we are so far behind it looks infinite,” he said in June.
Aside from their political ties, Devlin is personally close to the premier.
When Ford’s brother, the late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, fell ill with cancer, he helped the family through their ordeal.
Well-regarded by reporters for his candour and good nature, Devlin was the person who revealed to the media that Rob Ford had a tumour.
The premier has frequently referred to him as one of the smartest health-policy people anywhere.
But because Ford campaigned on “stopping the gravy train” and has boasted that “the party with the taxpayers’ money is over,” the size of the compensation package could be politically problematic.
He has promised to cut 4 per cent of government spending — or $6 billion — and complained about the bloated Ministry of Health bureaucracy.
“If your kid has a fever or your mom has a fall, you don’t go down to the Ministry of Health to have it looked at, instead you go to your local doctors and nurses,” Ford said in April .
“If Kathleen Wynne had invested in doctors and nurses and patients the same way she has invested in new senior health-care bureaucrats, then every town would have a doctor, wait times would be a thing of the past and patients wouldn’t be stuck on stretchers in our hospital hallways.”