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Canada Ford’s top staffer intervened to have former Brown aide axed from new job, sources say

Former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown’s chief of staff was fired on his first day at Ontario Power Generation after an intervention from Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s top staffer, according to party sources.

Tory insiders with knowledge of the situation say Mr. Ford’s chief of staff, Dean French, personally reached out to the head of the board of OPG and asked that Alykhan Velshi be removed from the executive role he started this fall.

Instead of immediately showing Mr. Velshi the door, however, the OPG has kept him on as vice-president of corporate affairs and community relations until his termination formally takes effect. That date is not known, along with what kind of severance he might be entitled to.

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OPG’s president and CEO, Jeff Lyash, would only say on Monday that Mr. Velshi still works for the Crown-owned electrical power generating utility, adding that he “can’t comment on personnel matters.” Mr. Velshi’s LinkedIn profile lists him as a vice-president of OPG, but The Globe and Mail has learned his job was terminated the day his contract started. He was hired in September.

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According to sources who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to discuss the decision, Mr. French directly intervened in the affairs of the utility by asking Bernard Lord, a former premier of New Brunswick who is now chairman of the OPG, to fire Mr. Velshi. It is not known what motivated his request. Mr. French did not respond when asked for comment.

Mr. Velshi declined to comment when reached by The Globe, and referred all questions to officials at OPG.

“We don’t discuss individual employee matters,” OPG spokesman Neal Kelly said in an e-mail. Questions directed to Mr. Lord were not answered.

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The Premier’s Office responded to questions about the matter with a statement. “Ontario Power Generation is responsible for their own staffing decisions,” spokeswoman Laryssa Waler said in an e-mail.

It is unusual for a premier’s chief of staff to get involved in staffing decisions at a Crown agency. A memorandum of agreement spells out the government’s role at the OPG. According to the governance provisions in the agreement, signed in 2015 by then-energy minister Bob Chiarelli and Mr. Lord, the energy minister appoints members of the board of directors at the utility. The board members are responsible for working with senior executives to supervise the business affairs and operations of the corporation.

Mr. French, however, involved himself in OPG three levels down from the board, past the CEO and senior vice-presidents, regarding Mr. Velshi’s job.

Mr. Velshi began working as chief of staff to Mr. Brown in March, 2017. He resigned in January, along with two other top staffers, the night Mr. Brown was forced to step down as leader amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Mr. Brown has denied the allegations. Mr. Velshi immediately assumed the same role for interim PC leader Victor Fedeli until March, when Mr. Ford succeeded Mr. Brown.

Mr. Velshi served in senior roles in prime minister Stephen Harper’s office between 2011 and 2014, including as director of strategic planning and then director of issues management and parliamentary affairs.

He also worked for former cabinet minister Jason Kenney, and as a senior adviser to Mr. Harper during the 2008 and 2011 election campaigns.

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Before coming to Queen’s Park, Mr. Velshi, who trained as a lawyer, worked at the Toronto office of McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm.

With a report from Shawn McCarthy in Toronto

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