The Ford government is moving to tighten the vetting of government appointments after the Premier’s former chief of staff was embroiled in a patronage scandal.
The shift comes the day after the resignation of the chair of a committee that helps choose justices of the peace. Lawyer Andrew Suboch resigned on Wednesday from his paid post after The Globe and Mail revealed his ties to Dean French, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s former chief of staff.
Mr. French resigned from his top post in Mr. Ford’s office on June 21 after it was revealed that two people with personal ties to the former chief of staff were given lucrative foreign appointments: a former lacrosse player who is friends with Mr. French’s son, and the second cousin of Mr. French’s wife. Both of those appointments have been revoked.
In a news conference on Thursday, Mr. Ford said he takes “full responsibility” for what happens in his province, and said he always looks to improve the vetting process.
The Premier’s Office confirmed media reports that Mr. Ford wants better vetting and different procedures for appointments, including sending candidates’ names to the Treasury Board. The office was unable to provide details of how the system would work or when it would be instituted.
“I’m responsible for everything that happens [in] that province, and I take responsibility. Yes, we always look at improvement on vetting candidates," Mr. Ford told reporters at the final news conference after a meeting of provincial and territorial premiers.
Upon Mr. French’s departure from government, other appointments with connections to Mr. Ford’s former chief of staff were uncovered, including his niece, who resigned from the Public Accountants Council. Mr. Ford’s office has launched a review of pending government appointments and also pledged to examine current appointments brought to its attention.
However, Mr. Ford on Thursday dismissed questions as to whether his government would undertake an external review of all government appointments made since coming to office. He said he has also re-appointed countless Liberal appointees, although his office did not provide further information.
“We’re doing our review. We’re vetting these candidates. But let’s make no mistake about this, we’re going to put the best people in place to run these agencies, boards and commissions," Mr. Ford said.
“I don’t care if they’re from the orange party, the red party or the blue party, I want the best bang for the buck. And again, I think we’re doing that.”
Earlier this week, Mr. Ford said he dealt swiftly with the patronage scandal that has enveloped his office. But he dismissed queries about his former chief of staff’s departure as being “into the weeds” and refused to answer questions about whether he pushed Mr. French to quit.
Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on Thursday repeated her party’s call for the government to stop bypassing the legislative committee that is supposed to be quizzing government appointees. She said all appointments since last year’s election should be publicly reviewed.
“I think it’s pretty clear that whatever process Mr. Ford purports to have under way is not happening,” Ms. Horwath told reporters. “I mean, when’s the next person going to slide out from under a rock that has received an appointment inappropriately?"
With reports from Jeff Gray and Justin Giovannetti
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