Ford vows tighter vet­ting rules after wave of de­par­tures

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - QUEEN’S PARK RE­PORTER LAURA STONE

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?”

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