Queen’s Park is looking to beef up the public appointments process in the wake of the Progressive Conservatives’ “French connections” cronyism scandal.
Government House Leader Paul Calandra told the legislature “there is more to come” as the Tories move to curb patronage abuses.
“We are continuing to work on improving that process for public appointments, making them more open and transparent,” said Calandra.
“These are people that do very good work on behalf of the people of Ontario … but we want to make sure that they are in it for the right reasons and that the work that they do is in the best interest of the people of Ontario,” he said.
Doug Ford’s government was rocked last summer by allegations of insiders benefiting from their connection to Dean French, the premier’s then chief of staff.
French resigned June 21, one day after it emerged his wife’s cousin and a 26-year-old lacrosse pal of his son were awarded six-figure patronage appointments to be Ontario representatives in London, England and New York City.
Ford personally revoked those two plum postings and parted ways with his chief, who has since been replaced by Jamie Wallace, a well-regarded former Toronto Sun executive and one-time Queen’s Park press gallery president.
In all seven “French connections” appointees have stepped down or been forced out so far.
Calandra insisted the government would welcome “suggestions” from opposition critics to further improve the system.
“When it comes to the (public appointments legislative) committee process, we are following the process that was actually put in place by the previous NDP government,” he said.
But NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) said he wants to see specific recommendations to bolster oversight of appointments.
“The sad reality is that nobody trusts Doug Ford and his government to investigate … the premier’s government scandals,” said Natyshak.
“For months the premier has laid low while details of his patronage appointments leaked out, handing lucrative foreign postings to a former PC party president, and the lacrosse-playing friend of his chief of staff’s son, stacking government agencies with friends and relations,” he said.
That’s a reference to former Tory president Jag Badwal, who was named Ontario’s agent-general in Dallas.
Badwal’s appointment is going ahead as is that of Earl Provost, a former Ontario Liberal party executive director and chief of staff to the late Rob Ford when he was Toronto mayor. Provost is agent-general to Chicago.
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“The PC caucus has shut down any effort to have appointments reviewed openly by the government agencies committee,” said Natyshak.
“There’s no evidence that this government will conduct a review at all, much less an open and transparent one,” he said.