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Ontario appoints 4 agents-general, including ex-PC party president

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to the media following a cabinet shuffle at Queen's Park on June 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has appointed four people to positions abroad to drum up business in the province, including a former aide to his brother and a former president of the Progressive Conservative party.

The four agents-general – positions that have not existed in Ontario’s government since the 1990s – will be based in London, Chicago, Dallas and New York City, and serve as the province’s primary international representatives there. They will be paid between $165,000 and $185,000.

Ford said the positions will help increase investment and jobs in Ontario.

“Our government will work closely with these experts to make sure they’re delivering what we need and creating opportunities for our businesses to thrive,” the premier said in a statement.

The government said it may appoint up to four more agents-general.

The appointees include Earl Provost, who served as chief of staff to Ford’s late brother Rob Ford when he was mayor of Toronto. Provost, also a former Ontario Liberal Party executive, joined the premier’s office as a policy adviser a few weeks ago and will now head to Chicago.

Jag Badwal, who is a past president of the Ontario PC Party, heads to Dallas.

Taylor Shields, an assistant vice-president of marketing for Chubb Insurance, gets the London post and Tyler Albrecht, a senior analyst at Optimize Capital Markets, goes to New York City.

The budget for their salaries comes out of the existing budget for the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, the premier’s office said.

Opposition politicians have previously been critical of appointments Ford has made of friends and loyalists, after accusing the Liberals during the election campaign of helping insiders get rich.

Ford sparked a huge outcry when he named family friend Ron Taverner as Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, an appointment Taverner ultimately turned down.

Jenni Byrne left her post as principal secretary for an appointment with the Ontario Energy Board with an annual salary of about $197,000.

Past Progressive Conservative party president Rueben Devlin was granted a three-year term as a health-care adviser, Ford campaign adviser Ian Todd was appointed Ontario’s trade representative to the United States, with a $350,000 salary, and Ford family lawyer Gavin Tighe was appointed to the Public Accountants Council.

Failed Tory candidate Cameron Montgomery was appointed to lead a standardized testing organization.