Jenni Byrne, a former top federal Conservative staffer and adviser to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, has left her high-paid appointment to the Ontario Energy Board after only eight months.
Ms. Byrne is a long-time federal Conservative operative who served as Mr. Ford’s inaugural principal secretary. She was named to the board of the province’s energy regulator last January, leading opposition critics to criticize the government for giving lucrative jobs to Mr. Ford’s friends.
The two-year term came with an annual salary of about $197,000.
“My time at the OEB was very interesting, but I have decided to leave and pursue other opportunities," Ms. Byrne said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.
Ms. Byrne, who was Mr. Ford’s director of field operations during last year’s election, held senior roles in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office and ran his campaigns in 2011 and 2015.
Ms. Byrne has no official role in the upcoming federal election campaign, but she is expected to help some local Conservative candidates, as well as provide media commentary.
“Jenni Byrne’s last day at the OEB was Friday, Aug. 30. Ms. Byrne’s expertise added tremendous value to the OEB these past few months and we’d like to thank Ms. Byrne for her work during this transition period,” said Sydney Stonier, spokeswoman for Energy Minister Greg Rickford.
“We wish Ms. Byrne all the best in her future endeavours.”
In July, Ms. Byrne was replaced as principal secretary by Amin Massoudi, a former communications director to late Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
Ms. Byrne recently appeared on the podcast The Herle Burly, hosted by political consultant David Herle, who was former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s campaign co-chair during the 2018 Ontario election.
During the panel, Ms. Byrne said Conservatives feel “bullish” about winning the most seats in the federal election, and in order to do so, they must win in Ontario.
“I think the Conservatives are going to have to get back onto firm footing," she said.
Talking about a 2005 video unearthed by the federal Liberals of Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer speaking out against same-sex marriage, her party “did not handle it well," Ms. Byrne said. “I can admit that the Conservatives were not the most nimble in handling the video that came out," she said.
Mr. Scheer waited eight days to comment publicly on the video, while the Liberals also raised questions about Mr. Scheer’s stance on abortion. Mr. Scheer said be won’t bar his MPs from raising the issue of abortion, but he will oppose any attempt to reopen the debate.
But she added there is a “double standard,” citing a 2011 Canadian Press article in which Justin Trudeau, a Catholic, said he is personally opposed to abortion, but that no one should tell a woman what to do with her body.
With files from The Canadian Press
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