A group of key staffers is leaving Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s inner circle as his government approaches the end of its first year in office.
In the past few days, government officials have announced that Mr. Ford is losing his top communications and policy directors, while two communications staffers are moving to federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s office in Ottawa.
David Tarrant, Mr. Ford’s executive director of strategic communications, told the Premier’s Office in January he would be leaving after the budget to work in the private sector, said Laryssa Waler, Mr. Ford’s executive director of communications. Mitchell Davidson, Mr. Ford’s executive director of policy, is leaving the Premier’s Office this summer, Ms. Waler said. It is not known where Mr. Tarrant or Mr. Davidson will be working.
Mr. Tarrant previously worked in then-prime-minster Stephen Harper’s office and for BMO Financial Group before joining Mr. Ford’s office last June. Mr. Davidson had worked at Queen’s Park for the Progressive Conservatives while they were the Official Opposition for four years.
Taking on Mr. Tarrant’s role will be Matt Bondy, a senior adviser to Mr. Ford’s chief of staff, Dean French, a long-time ally of the Premier widely seen as a powerful figure at Queen’s Park, rivalling only Mr. Ford himself. Mr. Davidson’s job will be filled by Greg Harrington, also an adviser to Mr. French.
“As we come to the end of our first year it is natural and expected to have some staffing shifts, especially with the federal political scene heating up,” Ms. Waler said in an e-mailed statement. “We wish every single one of our team members nothing but our full support and continued friendship as they move on.”
Andrew MacDougall, who previously worked as Mr. Harper’s chief spokesman, praised Mr. Tarrant in a Twitter post last week, calling his departure a “big loss for Team Ford.”
Other departures from Mr. Ford’s office include Simon Jefferies, director of media relations, and Veronica Green, director of communications, who will be joining Mr. Scheer’s office this spring in advance of the federal election campaign.
Ms. Waler said her boss believes the pair will serve Mr. Scheer well. The two leaders have made common cause against the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.
“Premier Ford is glad that leading into a critical election period, Mr. Scheer’s office will have the skills and support of two all-stars from our team,” Ms. Waler said. She said Kayla Iafelice, currently director of communications for Education Minister Lisa Thompson, would be moving to the Premier’s Office to replace Mr. Jefferies.
Mr. Ford also lost his principal secretary, Jenni Byrne, in January, for a high-paid appointment at the Ontario Energy Board. Ms. Byrne was also a key figure in Mr. Harper’s Conservative government.
In recent weeks, Mr. Ford’s government has become embroiled in political battles over large spending cuts for public-health units, daycare and legal aid, as well as controversial plans to increase class sizes in the province’s schools and change the way the government funds autism treatment.
Mayor John Tory and other municipal leaders across the province have united in opposition to cuts that Mr. Tory has said will cost his city $180-million in funding this year alone. The Premier was booed loudly at the opening of the Special Olympics in Toronto on Tuesday night, while Mr. Tory was greeted with cheers.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Liberal Party that Mr. Ford’s election win reduced to a tiny rump in the Legislature is also set to lose two more MPPs, potentially reducing the caucus from seven members to five.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, the MPP for Ottawa-Vanier, is taking a job as the principal of Massey College at the University of Toronto. But she said would not resign until later this year. Earlier this week, Orleans MPP Marie-France Lalonde announced she was seeking the federal Liberal nomination in her Ottawa-area riding.