Premier Doug Ford has named former Toronto Sun executive Jamie Wallace as his chief of staff, a post Wallace had been filling on an interim basis since his controversial predecessor Dean French left in a cronyism scandal two months ago.
The move was announced Thursday as Treasury Board president Peter Bethlenfalvy said more details will be released this fall on a “full review” of the appointments process that led to French’s downfall, along with at least six other appointees quitting or having their positions revoked.
Wallace wrote in an email to colleagues in the premier’s office that he was “honoured” to take on the role “to work with all of you to address the challenges facing this province and the important work ahead for our government.”
A former president of the press gallery at Queen’s Park and a Sun reporter in the newspaper’s legislative bureau during the terms of premiers Bob Rae and Mike Harris, Wallace was hired away from his position as vice-president of editorial for the Sun in January to be one of Ford’s deputy chiefs of staff.
He takes over as Ford’s personal popularity has plummeted in a number of opinion polls and in several public appearances where he has been booed, including the Raptors’ NBA championship celebration and the launch of the Special Olympics.
In a poll last month from Corbett Communications, 60 per cent of respondents said they would be “less likely” to voter for Conservative candidates in the Oct. 21 federal election because of Ford’s policies, including controversial changes to autism funding and education.
French, a longtime confidante of Ford’s, left in turmoil after a relative and a lacrosse friend of his son’s were appointed the province’s trade representatives in London, England, and New York City at six-figure salaries.
New Democrats questioned why the review of political appointments that the Progressive Conservative government has heralded all summer has not yielded any public findings. To date, the only revelations of questionable appointments have come from the media and the NDP.
“No one yet knows how many Ford friends and insiders may be stowing away on the gravy train, clinging to their golden tickets,” MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) said in a statement.
“It’s time for Doug Ford to drop this charade and let the standing committee on government agencies publicly inspect the tickets he’s been handing out.”
Bethlenfalvy, who held a news conference to say the government saved $153 million by curbing year-end spending sprees of allocations in their budgets, said a “full review” of the appointments process is in progress.
“We’ll have more to say in the fall,” he pledged.
“We’re looking at best practices in other jurisdictions as well and making sure we take a full 360 review of how we can continue to strengthen the process and the application of that process,” Bethlenfalvy added.
“Anyone who doesn’t meet the criteria … will either not be appointed or their appointment will be revoked.”
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Questionable hirings included the government’s first “strategic transformation adviser,” a post equivalent in rank to a deputy minister that was given to Peter Fenwick last November, apparently without an executive search or public competition.
The Star revealed Fenwick was a long-time insurance customer of French. Fenwick was dismissed by the secretary of cabinet July 4.