A newly appointed director on Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has resigned after the Opposition NDP revealed a link to Premier Doug Ford’s departed chief of staff.
Ian Neita, an insurance-industry veteran appointed in December to the WSIB, has stepped down, the Premier’s Office said on Friday.
The announcement came just hours after the NDP held a news conference alleging Mr. Neita had coached a competitive girls’ basketball team alongside Mr. Ford’s former chief of staff, Dean French, six years ago.
This week, the Premier pledged to tighten the appointment process after a number of appointees to government posts were found to have personal links to Mr. French, who left his job last month under a cloud.
In the latest allegations, NDP MPP Marit Stiles raised concerns about Mr. Neita’s appointment on Friday. She said that in a 2013 program for an Ontario basketball tournament, Mr. French is listed as head coach and Mr. Neita as assistant coach for an Etobicoke girls’ team. Mr. Neita also endorsed Mr. French – who has worked in the insurance business – for his “investment skills.”
The WSIB board meets about six times a year, and directors are paid $275 per meeting.
Ms. Stiles called for an independent review of the Ford government’s appointments, saying that the PC MPPs on the legislative committee that is supposed to vet them have frequently blocked its ability to do so, including in Mr. Neita’s case.
“Mr. Ford needs to come clean about connections that his government has with any of the people who’ve been appointed,” she told reporters at Queen’s Park.
Mr. Neita, whose LinkedIn page identifies him as a manager of group underwriting at Industrial Alliance, a major Canadian insurer, did not reply to a request for comment. The WSIB referred questions about his appointment to the government.
A Premier’s Office source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about internal matters, said the office was disappointed that Mr. Neita resigned. The source said it was his decision.
Meanwhile, the Premier’s Office offered more details about the Ford government’s move to tighten the vetting of government appointments. Spokeswoman Kayla Iafelice said in an e-mail that officials with the province’s Treasury Board are reviewing the appointment process to “strengthen conflict-of-interest screening.”
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