Doug Ford’s populist campaign strategy in last spring’s Ontario election campaign saw him rail against what he said was a Liberal government devoted to spending taxpayer money on “insiders and political elites.” But now, less than a year after the Progressive Conservatives 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.
In addition to the botched attempt to make Toronto police superintendent and Ford friend Ron Taverner head of the Ontario Provincial Police, the Opposition at Queen’s Park has seized on a series of appointments that include failed PC candidates, political campaign gurus and a Toronto lawyer who has acted for the Premier and his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
Some of the positions have six-figure salaries. Others will see insiders wield influence over bodies that make grants or the boards of government agencies. The government points to the credentials and experience of many of the appointees as justification.
But NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says the patronage for party faithful contrasts sharply with recent PC government announcements, such as cuts to education that will see class sizes grow across the province.
“Mr. Ford has shown the people of Ontario that he’s prepared to make life easier for his crony friends, for his failed candidates, for his personal buddies, while at the same time he is taking away things from everyday families,” Ms. Horwath said. “And that’s just the wrong priority for a premier.”
Simon Jefferies, a spokesman for the Premier, dismissed the NDP’s concerns by saying the previous, Liberal government spent 15 years appointing its own “insiders,” leaving Mr. Ford’s government with “a lot of cleaning up to do.
“Every single individual our government has appointed has been extremely well-qualified, well-recommended, and believes in the government’s direction of putting the people first,” Mr. Jefferies said in an e-mailed statement.
Patronage controversies have a long lineage in Canadian politics, dating back from a 1984 TV debate in which Brian Mulroney delivered a knockout punch to John Turner – who had just approved a long list of Pierre Trudeau appointees – to long before Confederation, when posts awarded to members of Upper Canada’s Family Compact and Lower Canada’s English elite helped ignite the Rebellions of 1837.
And governments of all stripes – including the one that preceded Mr. Ford’s – still engage in the practice of appointing their own, as the rules allow a large amount of discretion for politicians.
But newly elected governments tend to face more scrutiny as they move to clean house and install their crop of supporters, says Kathy Brock, a professor at the school of policy studies at Queen’s University in Kingston. And in recent years, amid demands for more transparency, governments across Canada – including Ontario’s – have tried to modernize their appointment processes while bringing in new ethical codes and rules.
“I think what we are seeing is a transition in politics that is happening generally,” Dr. Brock said. “We are in an era of more transparency. People are expecting more.”
The Ford government has named five failed PC candidates to seats on the Niagara Parks Commission, the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and the Trillium Foundation.
Last fall, the government named Sandie Bellows, a Niagara regional councillor from nearby St. Catharines, chairwoman of the Niagara Parks Commission, which oversees various attractions at Niagara Falls and brings in more than $100-million a year.
Ms. Bellows, who has worked in sales and marketing, is a long-time volunteer for various causes and ran in last June’s provincial election under the PC banner and came second in the riding of St. Catharines. Her new position is part-time, with a $250 per diem. Her predecessor took in $30,000 in remuneration and expenses in 2017.
Ms. Bellows said her business and local government experience makes her perfectly qualified for the role – and she is determined to defy her critics: “There are naysayers – I hear them on the radio. There are always going to be people who complain.”
The government also named April Jeffs, a professional photographer and former mayor of Wainfleet, Ont. – a rural township in the Niagara Region with a population of 6,300 – vice-chair of the Niagara Parks Commission. The part-time post comes with a $175 per diem.
Ms. Jeffs, who lost to the NDP in Niagara Centre last June, is now running for the federal Conservative Party. She says she has the background for the job, citing her experience on Niagara’s regional council while mayor and the fact that, after studying tourism at Niagara College in the 1990s, she worked at two Niagara Falls hotels.
“I think a lot of it goes down to the qualifications. And I think that’s the concern of a lot of people who are raising this question," Ms. Jeffs said. “I get it.”
Two more local PC loyalists were also given part-time posts on the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, a joint U.S.-Canada body that owns and operates the area’s three main bridges. Bart Maves is a lobbyist, two-term PC MPP and eight-year Niagara regional councillor. Chuck McShane, who failed in his bid for a seat at Queen’s Park last June, is the executive director the Niagara Home Builders’ Association.
Mr. Maves says the post involves attending about 10 meetings a year and includes a $150 per diem. In his time as an MPP, from 1995 to 2003, he co-founded a body that included New York State legislators and worked on cross-border issues, including bridges, he said.
He also says it only makes sense for the new government to replace the many Liberal appointees on such bodies. “They replace them with people they know, that are like-minded," he said. "It’s a little bit of sour grapes or just trying to find an issue.”
Mr. McShane could not be reached for comment.
Two other failed PC candidates have been given volunteer seats on the Trillium Foundation, which handed out $120-million last year to various charities and agencies: Gary Bennett, a former mayor of Kingston, who placed third in his provincial riding of Kingston and the Islands in June; and Mary Henein Thorn, who lost in Kitchener Centre and could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Bennett says he was approached by the office of Tourism Minister Michael Tibollo about sitting on the Trillium board after the election. He says he’s more than qualified for his new role, adding that the PC government’s appointments are no more partisan over all than those of Liberal or NDP governments in the past.
“I think everyone is probably equally guilty.”
Carmine Nigro: The new chairman of the board of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario is Carmine Nigro, the co-founder of Craft Development Corp., a company that has retail, office and residential projects across Ontario and in parts of the United States. Mr. Nigro replaces former TD Bank CEO Ed Clark, appointed by the previous Liberals. The new chairman of the province’s massive liquor monopoly – which brings in $6.24-billion a year in revenue – also sits on the board of the PC Ontario Fund, the fundraising arm of Mr. Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party. Last year, he presided over an invitation-only $175-a-ticket “development industry symposium” for the PC Party in Woodbridge, Ont., north of Toronto – an event attended by Mr. Ford. In the past few years, Mr. Nigro and his development company found themselves in a feud with Toronto Mayor John Tory after asserting they owned air rights for development above the rail corridor slated for the mayor’s planned $1-billion Rail Deck Park. Mr. Ford, shortly after unveiling his later-abandoned bid for the mayor’s job in September, 2017, publicly sided with Mr. Nigro. Mr. Nigro told a legislative committee earlier this month that he had met the Premier but had never “socialized” with him. In an e-mail, he said he would donate his salary as LCBO chairman to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Ken Hughes: Mr. Ford promised to expand the sale of beer and wine into corner stores, and last month his government hired Ken Hughes, a former federal and provincial Progressive Conservative politician from Alberta – which has privatized the sale of alcohol – to spearhead the effort and advise Finance Minister Vic Fedeli. Mr. Hughes’s salary over the next year is $1,000 a day, to a maximum of $200,000. He co-founded an insurance brokerage with his wife, Denise, and served as chair of Alberta Health Services from 2008-2011. He was Alberta’s municipal affairs and energy minister from 2012 to 2014. And long before he entered provincial politics, he was an investor and in a friend’s small private liquor retailer that was later bought by Alcanna, which operates the province’s largest alcohol chain. He has been given the task of achieving Mr. Ford’s liberalization goal while avoiding the hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties that could be invoked under the previous government’s deal with the brewery-owned Beer Store. In an interview, he said he had too few connections to Ontario’s PCs to be considered a patronage appointee: “I don’t have a lot of relationships here in Ontario, politically. I don’t think you could put me in that basket.”
Charles Harnick: The appointment of former provincial attorney-general Charles Harnick as chairman of Legal Aid Ontario puts him in charge of an organization he helped create in the 1990s while serving in the PC government of Mike Harris. But the posting drew criticism from the NDP because of his role in the 1995 Ipperwash affair, in which the OPP shot and killed an Indigenous protester occupying a provincial park. In an inquiry a decade later, Mr. Harnick contradicted his initial account to the legislature of a meeting he attended just hours before the shooting, testifying that he heard Mr. Harris utter an obscenity while yelling that he wanted the "Indians out of the park” – a remark Mr. Harris has denied making. In an interview, Mr. Harnick would not rehash the affair, saying he stood by his testimony and pointing to his work since then with various First Nations. His appointment – by a three-member panel that includes a judge and a representative of the Law Society of Ontario – was announced before last week’s provincial budget slashed Legal Aid Ontario’s funding allocation by 30 per cent.
Rueben Devlin: Among the first Ford loyalists appointed to a key role after the election, Dr. Devlin is a former orthopedic surgeon and CEO of Humber River Hospital. A PC Party president during the Harris era, he helped the Ford family cope as Rob Ford sought cancer treatment at the hospital. His appointment to a $348,000 job as chairman of a new council on health-care reform comes after he served as Mr. Ford’s key adviser on the issue during the election campaign – and is actually a step down from the $500,000 annual salary he made as a hospital CEO. Dr. Devlin could not be reached for comment, but a spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said he has a record of implementing strategies “at the highest levels of health care” and taking “bold steps” to use new technology to help patients.
Gavin Tighe: A lawyer who has acted for Mr. Ford and his brother Rob, Mr. Tighe was named chairman last October of the Public Accountants Council for the Province of Ontario, a four-year, $166,666-a-year job at the helm of the industry-funded body. (The Liberals had appointed their own former attorney-general, Michael Bryant, to the post.) Mr. Tighe told a legislative committee that he has dealt with accounting and auditing issues in legal cases. But critics point to his links to the Fords. Recently, he acted for the Premier when he was interviewed by the Integrity Commissioner during the investigation of the Taverner affair. In an interview, Mr. Tighe said he is friendly, but not close friends, with the Premier. He said his appointment has been unfairly tarred by Mr. Ford’s political opponents: “You shouldn’t be disqualified from a position you are qualified for simply because you have had a dealing with the Premier or a member of the government.”
Jenni Byrne: The mastermind of Stephen Harper’s successful 2011 federal election campaign – who was then partly blamed for his defeat in 2015 – Ms. Byrne was thought to be an experienced hand and a moderating influence as Mr. Ford’s principal secretary early in his government. But she reportedly clashed with Mr. Ford’s friend and chief of staff, Dean French, an Etobicoke businessman. So in January she made her exit – with a parachute: a $197,000-a-year, two-year seat on the Ontario Energy Board, which governs gas and electricity rates. Ms. Byrne did not respond to a request for comment.
Michael Diamond: A registered lobbyist who ran Mr. Ford’s PC leadership bid and quarterbacked his election win, Mr. Diamond is among a handful of people with party links added to the volunteer board of the Trillium Foundation. He declined to comment on his appointment, but when he was questioned by the Opposition before a legislative committee, he said the job came up when he ran into a member of the Premier’s staff at a social gathering. His experience running a business and advising various charities would be an asset to board, he told the committee. When asked if it was appropriate for a government to hand many similar positions to partisans, he said: “I think that the prerogative of the government is to appoint people who they think can work towards delivering results for the people of Ontario.”
David Shiner: In 2013, with Toronto municipal politics in turmoil due to the increasingly erratic behaviour of then-mayor Rob Ford, Mr. Shiner was one of only two city councillors to vote against a motion to strip the mayor of many of his powers. (The other was Doug Ford.) In November, the Ford government appointed Mr. Shiner to the board of Infrastructure Ontario, which handles public-private partnership deals to build everything from hospitals to roads and is expected to take a key role as the province takes over Toronto’s subway system. The long-time North York councillor told a legislative committee last November that he found the vacancy for the new post – which he said comes with a $500 per diem for meetings – online and applied himself. A former city budget chief, planning committee chairman and vice-chairman of the city’s real estate agency, Mr. Shiner ran unsuccessfully for a provincial seat in 2007. He declined to seek re-election as a councillor after Mr. Ford slashed Toronto council from 47 to 25 seats. Mr. Shiner could not be reached for comment.
Joe Oliver: The former federal minister of finance in the Harper government now has a seat on the board of Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which runs the province’s power grid. Mr. Oliver was a cabinet colleague in Ottawa with Greg Rickford, now Mr. Ford’s Energy Minister. In an attempt at a political comeback, the now-78-year-old Mr. Oliver made a failed bid for the Ontario PC nomination in York Centre in 2017, when Patrick Brown was still party leader. His appointment to the IESO was immediately panned by the NDP and by environmentalists, who pointed to a Toronto Sun column in which he argued that concerns about climate change are “at best grossly exaggerated or simply false.” In an interview, Mr. Oliver said he does not deny that climate change is occurring but said the “apocalyptic predictions” associated with it have been inflated. He called the criticism that too many people with Tory links were winning posts under Mr. Ford outlandish: “Where were all these people when the Kathleen Wynne government appointed only Liberals to the posts? I mean, governments tend to appoint people they know and that they have confidence in.”
Ian Todd: A veteran Tory staffer and campaign adviser, Mr. Todd was Mr. Ford’s tour director during the 2018 campaign. He previously served as chief of staff to Preston Manning and Stockwell Day and worked for cabinet ministers in British Columbia and in Mr. Harper’s government. Last October, he was appointed Ontario’s special adviser and trade representative in Washington, with a salary of $350,000 – $75,000 more than his Liberal predecessor, Monique Smith. The government has said that, unlike his predecessor, he will not be eligible for severance or pension payments. At the time of his appointment, Mr. Todd was a partner at a lobbying and communications firm in Vancouver, having previously worked in Calgary. Asked why he was appointed to represent Ontario while living outside the province, the Premier’s Office said Mr. Todd would be a “strong representative” for Ontario in Washington. Mr. Todd did not respond to a request for comment.
Cameron Montgomery: Mr. Montgomery is a failed PC candidate who lost to Liberal Marie-France Lalonde in the riding of Orléans in last June’s provincial election. Before getting into politics, he was an assistant professor in the faculty of education at the University of Ottawa for 14 years. In October, Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson appointed him chair of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), an arm’s-length agency that administers tests to students and measures their proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics. It was previously a part-time job with an annual salary of about $5,000. But the PCs made the position full-time, with a salary of $140,000. Ms. Thompson said the government is taking a serious approach to standardized testing after 15 years of Liberal mismanagement. In a statement, Mr. Montgomery said he has more than 25 years of experience in education and can help the EQAO modernize: “I intend to work with EQAO’s Board of Directors to provide the strategic guidance that can help deliver changes to the agency and its assessments.”
James Ginou: Mr. Ginou was appointed in January to chair the board of Ontario Place as the government looks to redevelop the prime Toronto waterfront property. A prominent PC fundraiser and businessman, Mr. Ginou is a personal acquaintance of the Premier and also knew his late brother. He was a founding member on the board of the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corp. and was appointed to the Toronto Port Authority, which now calls itself PortsToronto, when Rob Ford was mayor and Doug Ford was a city councillor. A close friend of Mr. Harris, the former premier, Mr. Ginou has been the chair of Ontario Place before, from 1997 to 2003. He told website QP Briefing in January that the site is in “disrepair” and can be rebuilt “in any way that Ford wants it to be rebuilt.” He did not respond to a request for comment.
Michael Kraljevic: In January, Mr. Kraljevic was appointed to the board of Metrolinx, the Ontario government’s public-transit agency for the Toronto region, which is set to take on a bigger role as the province uploads responsibility for the city’s subway system. A long-time real estate and development professional, Mr. Kraljevic was the CEO of the Toronto Port Lands Co., which manages the city’s real estate assets in that part of town, from 2009 until 2018. He currently serves as executive adviser at CreateTO, the city’s newly created real estate agency. In 2013, when Mr. Ford was a city councillor, he reportedly pushed for Mr. Kraljevic to become the new chief executive at Build Toronto, CreateTO’s predecessor, which was set up to develop and sell the city’s surplus land. The move led six independent directors to resign in protest. Two years earlier, when Mr. Kraljevic was the CEO of the Toronto Port Lands Company, Mr. Ford unsuccessfully tried to push a waterfront design that included a Ferris wheel and megamall. Citing reports that linked previous Metrolinx staff to the Liberal Party, a spokesman for Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek said that with Mr. Kraljevic the government is “making sure that Metrolinx has the right skilled people to get Ontarians moving.”