Doug Ford's chief of staff resigns one day after appointment controversy
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s chief of staff has resigned one day after reports surfaced that he had personal ties with two new government appointees set to live abroad and make six-figure salaries.
Ford’s office confirmed the sudden departure of Dean French on Friday evening, less than 24 hours after the Globe and Mail reported that French had personal relationships with two agents-general posted to London and New York City.
In a statement, the premier did not address the controversy but instead thanked French for his friendship and for leading his successful 2015 election campaign.
“He is leaving our government in a very strong position from where we can build upon our successes and continue delivering on our priorities for the people of Ontario,” Ford said in the statement.
On Thursday, Ford announced four agents-general appointments with salaries between $165,000 and $185,000.
Among those appointments were Taylor Shields, an assistant vice-president of marketing for Chubb Insurance, who was appointed to a post in London, and 26-year-old Tyler Albrecht, a senior analyst at Optimize Capital Markets, who was posted to New York City.
Shortly after the announcement, the Globe and Mail reported that, according to sources, Shields is related to French’s wife and that Albrecht is friends with one of French’s sons, and that the two men once played lacrosse on the same team.
Ford later cancelled the two appointments.
French’s time as chief of staff was the subject of several controversies. Former Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier, who was suspended from the caucus over comments related to autism funding and later expelled, claimed that the real reason for his ejection was “long-standing tensions” with French and Chris Froggatt, chair of the PC election readiness committee.
The Premier’s Office called the allegations “patently false.” French later launched a defamation lawsuit against Hillier, accusing him of leading a "libelous and defamatory" campaign against him. French’s allegations have not been proven in court and Hillier's lawyer has said his client will vigorously defend the claim.
Last November, Ontario’s opposition parties called on Ford to look into reports that French unsuccessfully ordered senior political aides to instruct police to raid illegal cannabis dispensaries on Oct. 17, 2018, the day marijuana became legal across Canada.
NDP MPP Marit Stiles responded to Ford’s announcement in a statement Friday.
“As long as he’s plowing ahead with his callous cuts for families, backroom deals for friends, and relentless bullying of anyone who disagrees with him, changing back room staff won’t help the people of Ontario who are hurting under the Ford regime,” Stiles said.
With files from The Canadian Press