In his campaign to become Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford vowed to fight against the “insiders and political elites” he said had infiltrated the Liberal government. This wasn’t far off from his brother Rob Ford’s “stop the gravy train” motto while running for Toronto mayor. But just more than a year after Doug Ford’s election, details emerged about a long and growing list of party loyalists or friends who were appointed to lucrative posts, some with six-figure salaries.
It wasn’t just the people filling those roles that initially caught the public’s attention: It was also how much money these positions were being offered. Four agents-general announced in June, for instance, would earn between $165,000 to $185,000 a year, plus expenses, to help Ontario businesses attract investments and grow in the United States and Britain. Two of them had connections to Mr. Ford’s chief of staff, Dean French. Soon, a string of officials who also had relationships to Mr. French resigned, before Mr. French himself quit. Jamie Wallace, a former Toronto Sun executive who served as interim chief of staff, took over the job permanently in August.
Here’s a guide to who has left and how they’re connected to Mr. French and Mr. Ford’s inner circle.
Who is Dean French?
Mr. French, who quit as chief of staff in June, was seen as the most powerful unelected official around Mr. Ford. He’s a Toronto businessman and a friend of Mr. Ford since the late 1990s, according to Toronto Life, when they volunteered together for Doug Ford Sr.’s bid to become premier. He became known as Mr. Ford’s second-in-command and exerted considerable influence within Queen’s Park. Sources told The Globe and Mail last year, for instance, that Mr. French was the one who pressed the chairman of Ontario Power Generation to fire Alykhan Velshi, a former chief of staff to past Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown, on his first day on the job at the power utility.
At Mr. French’s side in the Premier’s office were Chris Froggatt and Kory Teneycke, who started government relations firms weeks after helping the Progressive Conservatives win the election last year. A Globe investigation uncovered how they became powerful backroom advisers to the Premier. Mr. French was close with Mr. Froggatt and Mr. Teneycke and referred to them as a “three-legged stool." Mr. French also called on Mr. Froggatt for help with the controversy over the now-cancelled hiring of the Premier’s friend, Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner, as the next commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.
The 26-year-old, a recent university graduate and financial analyst, was given the New York agent-general post in June. After his appointment, outcry came from the opposition when it emerged that he was a friend of Mr. French’s sons.
According to Mr. Albrecht’s Facebook profile, he is friends with Joe and Ben French. He played lacrosse with Joe at St. Michael’s College School, where Mr. French was a coach. According to a Canadian Lacrosse Association newsletter, Mr. Albrecht was headed to a selection camp to determine the team for the under-19 world championship in Finland in 2012 along with Joe. At the time, Mr. French was the CLA’s national team chair.
Mr. Ford also appointed Ms. Shields, a marketing executive, to the London posting as an agent-general. Of the four appointments, hers would have carried the highest salary. She is also Mr. French’s wife’s second cousin.
One Tory source told The Globe and Mail the appointments were confirmed at a cabinet meeting that included Mr. Ford. Ministers were given limited information about the appointees, with few personal details or ages, and weren’t informed about any potential conflicts, the source said.
Ms. Pal resigned from Ontario’s Public Accountants Council the same day that the Premier’s Office announced it would start a review of other pending appointments. The NDP noted that she is a niece of Mr. French’s wife.
On July 10, after a two-week review into his appointment, Mr. Suboch resigned as chair of the Justices of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee, a post he had held since February. He was a long-time friend of Mr. French.
Mr. Neita was appointed to the board of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board in December, 2018, but quit on July 12 after the NDP revealed a link to Mr. French. NDP MPP Marit Stiles said that in a 2013 program for an Ontario basketball tournament, Mr. French is listed as head coach and Mr. Neita as assistant coach for a girls’ team in Toronto’s Etobicoke area. Mr. Neita also endorsed Mr. French – who has worked in the insurance business – for his “investment skills.”
Mr. Fenwick, Ontario’s strategic transformation adviser, was also fired after a report in the Toronto Star that he had long-time ties to Mr. French. His office was also dissolved. “As we go into the second year of supporting the government to deliver on its agenda, we have evaluated the structure of cabinet office,” Steven Davidson, the head of the province’s public service, wrote in a memo. “As a result of the review, the transformation office in cabinet office is being dissolved.”
Analysis and commentary
Compiled by Globe staff
Based on reporting by Laura Stone, Jeff Gray and Jill Mahoney
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.