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Opposition wants external review of public appointments under Doug Ford

Last Updated Jun 26, 2019 at 3:13 pm EDT

NDP MPP Marit Stiles calls for an external review of all Premier Doug Ford's government appointees. CITYNEWS/Cynthia Mulligan

Ontario’s opposition parties called Wednesday for a review of all government appointments to be handled outside of Premier Doug Ford’s office, after three were found to have personal ties to his ex-chief of staff.

Ford ordered a review Tuesday of all pending government appointments, days after Dean French resigned following news that appointees to two foreign posts were personally connected to him, and just hours after a third connection was revealed.

Both the NDP and the Liberals say that a review should include all appointments made since the Progressive Conservative government came to power last year, not just pending ones, and it should not be handled by the same people who signed off on them in the first place.

“This Doug Ford-behind-closed-doors review is like the fox guarding the hen house,” said New Democrat Marit Stiles.

The NDP wants the government to task the legislative committee on government agencies with the review _ though with a promise that witnesses would actually attend, said Stiles.

“We have called on dozens of Ford’s appointees to come before the committee to answer questions on their qualifications, their connections to the Ford government and the plans and the philosophies they intend to apply in their new roles, but Conservative MPPs on the government agencies committee have been putting up roadblocks,” she said.

“In the last six months alone, 31 appointees who were asked to appear before the committee by New Democrats have failed or refused to show up.”

Stiles said committee members were unable to question Jenni Byrne, who left her post as Ford’s principal secretary for an appointment with the Ontario Energy Board with an annual salary of about $197,000, and Charles Harnick, a former Tory cabinet minister who was made chair of Legal Aid Ontario.

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser wants the integrity commissioner to review all public appointments under the Tory government.

“It is important that the public appointment process be clear, fair and without improper influence,” he said in a statement. “A review by the independent officer of the legislature will restore public trust. An internal review by the government will not.”

Fraser said he would be asking the integrity commissioner to look at possible violations of the Member’s Integrity Act and the Public Services of Ontario Act.

A spokeswoman for Ford said if the premier finds that people have been appointed for the wrong reason, they will be removed from their positions.

Taylor Shields and Tyler Albrecht were being given lucrative agents-general posts in London and New York City respectively before their appointments were revoked after ties to French emerged. Shields was reported to be related to French while Albrecht played lacrosse with French’s son.

Katherine Pal resigned Tuesday from the Public Accountants Council after the NDP noted that she is a niece of Dean French’s wife.

Opposition politicians have previously been critical of appointments Ford has made of friends and loyalists.

Gavin Tighe, a Ford family lawyer and who is also acting for French in a defamation lawsuit he launched, was also appointed to the Public Accountants Council.

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

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