Ontario Premier Doug Ford is appointing four new trade advisers to his Progressive Conservative government, two with strong personal ties to his office in addition to a former party president.
On the day Mr. Ford unveiled a sweeping cabinet shuffle, his office announced four “agents-general" appointees to the United States and London who will earn between $165,000 to $185,000 a year, plus expenses, to help Ontario businesses attract investments and grow.
Among them is Tyler Albrecht, a 26-year-old recent university graduate and financial analyst, who was given the New York City post. Mr. Albrecht has ties to Mr. Ford’s chief of staff, Dean French, through their mutual involvement in lacrosse. He is also friends with Mr. French’s sons.
“When you look at the four advisers chosen today, you’ll see a group that is highly qualified across a broad range of sectors and skill sets,” Ivana Yelich, Mr. Ford’s press secretary, said in an e-mail.
“One of the key sectors that we are targeting is the financial sector, such as banking and investment. With experience in the financial sector in the United States and Canada, Mr. Albrecht is not only qualified, but also aligned with the priorities of this government and our business-friendly approach.”
The three-year appointments include former Ontario PC Party president and real estate agent Jag Badwal, who will be based in Dallas, where Ontario trades nearly $17-billion annually. He will also be responsible for representing Ontario in the southern region of the United States.
Earl Provost, former chief of staff to former Toronto mayor Rob Ford and former executive director of the Ontario Liberal Party, will take on the role in Chicago. He joined the Premier’s office last month as a senior policy adviser on intergovernmental affairs. During his time at City Hall, Mr. Provost helped deliver the Chicago-Toronto sister city agreement.
Mr. Ford also appointed Taylor Shields, a marketing executive, to the London posting, which carries the highest salary.
Ms. Shields is an assistant vice-president for marketing at Chubb Insurance, where she has worked for 12 years, according to her LinkedIn profile. She graduated from Queen’s University in 2007 and later returned there for an executive education program. It is not known if Ms. Shields has any ties to the PC party or the government.
None of the appointees responded to requests for comment on Thursday.
Mr. Ford’s campaign strategy in last spring’s Ontario election campaign included railing against what he said was a Liberal government devoted to spending taxpayer money on “insiders and political elites.” But a year after he won a majority, Mr. Ford’s critics say his government has already appointed a long and growing list of party loyalists or friends to lucrative posts.
MPP Taras Natyshak of the NDP said Mr. Ford’s attempt to reboot his brand with a cabinet shuffle has failed in light of Thursday’s appointments.
“He’s tightening his belt around people that are doing real jobs … and opening up the floodgates of cushy gravy train jobs for his close friends and allies. It’s gross. It’s sick. Obviously they haven’t learned their lesson in the last year," Mr. Natyshak said in an interview.
The government said the advisers will be accountable “to real metrics,” including deals closed and businesses helped.
According to the government’s news release, Mr. Albrecht worked in the finance industry in Toronto and New York City. According to his LinkedIn profile, his only U.S. work experience was as a sales and trading intern in New Jersey for a summer during university.
He graduated in 2016 from Loyola University in Baltimore with a bachelor of business administration and was a member of the school’s lacrosse team, according to his LinkedIn profile. He is from Oakville, Ont.
Mr. Albrecht is friends with Mr. French’s sons, Joe and Ben French, according to his Facebook profile. He played lacrosse with Joe at St. Michael’s College School, where Mr. French was a coach. According to a Canadian Lacrosse Association (CLA) newsletter, Mr. Albrecht was headed to a selection camp to determine the team for the under-19 world championships in Finland in 2012 along with Joe. At the time, Mr. French was the CLA’s national team chair.
The agents-general will serve as the province’s primary international representatives in their locations and work closely with Ian Todd, Ontario’s special adviser and trade representative in Washington, who earns a salary of $350,000. Ontario has not had agents-general since the late 1980s and early 1990s, when they were based in New York, France and Japan.
Mr. Ford on Thursday also officially appointed Steven Davidson as secretary of cabinet and head of the Ontario Public Service. Mr. Davidson has served as interim secretary since February, after the departure of Steve Orsini.
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