Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is searching for a new top aide after the departure of his second chief of staff in 2 1/2 years.
Amir Remtulla, a former Molson Coors executive, is leaving the mayor’s office July 20 to become vice-president of external partnerships for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games – a move the mayor’s brother, Councillor Doug Ford, said is understandable given the stress of the chief of staff’s job.
“If you could make 40 per cent more, be the eyes and ears for the mayor at the Pan Am Games and have less pressure, wouldn’t you take it?” Doug Ford said.
He added there is no friction between him and Mr. Remtulla. “The thing that’s frustrating is how the media spins this crap. I love him.”
Mr. Ford isn’t alone in that sentiment. City councillors described Mr. Remtulla as having a conciliatory, principled approach to matters. While he may not have always agreed with them, he always listened.
“The mayor has not been the most accessible person for most councillors, nor has he demonstrated an interest in really trying to resolve conflicts,” said Councillor Josh Matlow. “Rather, he often gets into the divisiveness.”
It’s possible that the mayor would turn to an unknown to run his office, but he typically prefers to stick with aides he knows and trusts.
Three names likely to come up as replacements are Mark Towhey, the mayor’s current director of policy, Nick Kouvalis, the mayor’s former chief of staff, and Andrew Pask, a former mayor’s office staffer who served as Mr. Ford’s executive assistant when he was a city councillor.
Mr. Pask and Mr. Kouvalis, who frequently butted heads behind the scenes, left the mayor’s office in January and February of 2011, respectively, after a verbal dust-up that prompted Mr. Kouvalis to ask City Hall security to escort Mr. Pask out.
Doug Ford said Mr. Kouvalis is not in the running because he is likely to oversee the mayor’s re-election bid in 2014.
“It’s not Nick. 100 per cent, definitely no. You can’t run the campaign and be chief of staff,” he said.
Mr. Kouvalis confirmed he doesn’t want his old job back, adding that he’s “been there, done that.”
As for his role in the next municipal contest, Mr. Kouvalis said, “I’ve always been involved and I’m planning on being involved in the next campaign. Ultimately, that’s up to the candidate.”
Like Mr. Kouvalis, Mr. Towhey was part of Mr. Ford’s successful election team in 2010. He served as interim chief of staff before Mr. Remtulla took up the post in February, 2011.
Mr. Remtulla served on the mayor’s transition team after his election. He was a long-time aide to former councillor Case Ootes, who served as deputy mayor under Mel Lastman and chaired Mr. Ford’s transition team.
Mr. Towhey did not return calls seeking comment Sunday. Mr. Pask declined comment.
Doug Ford wouldn’t rule out either contender. “Mark’s great,” he said of Mr. Towhey.
He said he hadn’t spoken directly to Mr. Pask. Asked if he was in the running for chief of staff, Mr. Ford said, “I can’t answer that.”
Councillor Adam Vaughan described Mr. Remtulla’s departure as a big loss.
“Amir looked for a solution a lot of the time,” said Mr. Vaughan. “If they don’t find a way to replace him with someone who behaves that way, it will be tough for all of us.”