Ontario Premier Doug Ford is facing calls from the province’s opposition parties for an outside review of appointments as his government vowed to comb through all past postings in the wake of outcry over patronage involving his former chief of staff.
The New Democratic Party and Liberals on Wednesday said Mr. Ford’s staff members should not be in charge of reviewing appointments, after revelations that several people given posts have ties to Dean French, the Premier’s former top adviser who resigned abruptly last Friday.
“We simply cannot trust Ford to lead a review of the appointments that he has personally signed off on. This Doug Ford behind-closed-doors review is like the fox guarding the hen house,” NDP MPP Marit Stiles said.
Mr. Ford’s office on Tuesday said it would review all “pending appointments,” as well as some past ones, including the chair of a committee that helps choose justices of the peace, after The Globe and Mail determined he is a friend of Mr. French.
On Wednesday, Government House Leader Paul Calandra told The Globe the government is reviewing all appointments.
“We are going to review not only the appointments that are pending … but also the ones that were made in the past, just to make sure that they meet the standard that the Premier set,” he said.
The Globe has confirmed that another Ford government appointee is connected to Mr. French’s family. Raquel de Medeiros, who was appointed to the board of trustees of the Royal Ontario Museum on Dec. 31, is the sister-in-law of Mr. French’s nephew.
Ms. de Medeiros declined comment when reached by The Globe on Wednesday. The three-year appointment is unpaid, but trustees are eligible to have expenses reimbursed. According to her bio, she manages a jewellery store, has an art history degree and has volunteered at the ROM.
The New Democrats called on Mr. Ford to recall the legislature’s standing committee on government agencies, of which the Progressive Conservatives hold a majority but the NDP chairs, to hold hearings to review all Ford government appointments, both past and present. Ms. Stiles also said she would write the province’s integrity commissioner, J. David Wake, asking for guidance.
Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said he had spoken to Mr. Wake about his concerns on Wednesday and called on the Premier to ask the integrity commissioner to launch a review. Mr. Fraser also called for a moratorium on all public appointments until such a review is complete.
“An independent review by a non-political entity will restore public trust. An internal review by the government will not,” Mr. Fraser said.
The Premier’s Office did not answer questions about the demands for independent reviews, instead repeating that Mr. Ford has directed his staff to review pending appointments. Mr. Calandra said it’s up to the committee or the integrity commissioner if they choose to conduct a review.
On Tuesday, the Premier’s Office said Andrew Suboch’s role on the Justices of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee would be examined. He was named to the committee last September and became chair in February. He is a long-time friend of Mr. French and their sons played lacrosse together.
Mr. Suboch said he has a record of community service and has served in his role with integrity. He said he was qualified for the position and “faithfully” filled out an online application form. “I’ll tell you, there was no question: ‘Are you friends with Dean French?’” he said on Wednesday.
He said Mr. French did not tell him he would get the position. When asked whether Mr. French told him to apply, Mr. Suboch said, “I don’t know, recall, who advised me to apply.”
Mr. Suboch, a personal injury and insurance lawyer, was found to have engaged in professional misconduct by the Law Society of Ontario in 2012. According to the society’s website, Mr. Suboch was found to have mishandled settlement funds and acted “without integrity in the manner in which he handled the settlement of two personal injury actions involving the client.” He was ordered to participate in a practice review and fined $8,000.
Mr. Suboch said the law society’s finding of misconduct against him was many years ago. “The record speaks for itself. I have had thousands of clients,” he said.
The chair of the Justices of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee earns a per diem of $566 a day and meets approximately 12 times a year. However, additional meetings can be called. In 2017, the then-chair took home $113,766.
Michael Spratt, a criminal defence lawyer in Ottawa, also called for a review of government appointments, saying the integrity of the process to appoint justices of the peace must be upheld to protect the public’s confidence in the judicial system. Justices of the peace, most of whom are not lawyers, are judicial officers who deal with provincial offences, bail hearings and search warrants, among other responsibilities.
“Given the important role that justices of the peace have, they need to be above reproach," Mr. Spratt said.
Mr. French resigned as Mr. Ford’s top aide late Friday, hours after the Premier cancelled appointments given to Tyler Albrecht and Taylor Shields as agents-general to New York and London, respectively, positions that came with salaries of $165,000 to $185,000, plus expenses. Mr. Albrecht is a 26-year-old who is friends with Mr. French’s sons and also played lacrosse, and Ms. Shields is the second cousin of Mr. French’s wife.
On Tuesday, Kate Pal, a niece of Mr. French, resigned from the Public Accountants Council.
Also on Tuesday, Mr. Ford sent a note to his caucus to emphasize that Mr. French has no role or influence in either the government or Progressive Conservative Party.
With a report from Sean Fine
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