Toronto

Doug Ford brushes off Dean French questions, says reporters want to 'get into the weeds'

Premier Doug Ford is brushing off questions about a controversy around government appointees who were found to have personal ties to his former chief of staff.

Premier took questions Monday about the appointments controversy for the first time since it began

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, sits alongside his chief of staff Dean French at the Ontario PC convention in Toronto on Nov. 17, 2018. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Premier Doug Ford brushed off questions Monday about a controversy around government appointees with personal ties to his former chief of staff, suggesting the public doesn't care about it.

Dean French abruptly left his job as Ford's top adviser more than two weeks ago when it first emerged that people given lucrative foreign postings were connected to him. 

Ford revoked those appointments, but as news of other government appointments having connections to French continued to emerge, the premier was silent on the issue.

His first comments came Monday during a joint news conference with other premiers in Calgary, but he quickly pivoted to other topics.

'We're not here to talk about Dean French'

"I know the media, you want to get into the weeds," he said. "Do you really think when I walk down the street in Alberta, people worry about Dean French? ... You know what they worry about? They worry about a job."

Ford said he had already addressed the issue. 

"[As a] matter of fact, I addressed that immediately when we were in Toronto," he said. "But my friends, we're not here to talk about Dean French ... We're here to talk about internal trade."

Ford revoked the agents-general appointments in London and New York City of Taylor Shields and Tyler Albrecht shortly after Shields was reported to be related to French and it emerged that Albrecht played lacrosse with French's son.

Four days later, Katherine Pal resigned from the Public Accountants Council after the NDP noted that she is a niece of French's wife. 

At that point, Ford's staff say he ordered a review of pending appointments, though they won't say who is conducting the review, how many appointments are pending, what criteria is being used, and if any revoked appointments will be announced.

'A lack of respect'

The opposition parties want such a review to be conducted externally, and not by the same office that originally signed off on the appointments in question.

New Democrat Taras Natyshak said Ford has been hiding instead of taking responsibility for a patronage scandal.

"Today he finally popped his head up only to pass the buck in Cowtown," Natyshak said in a statement. 

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser criticized the premier for his responses Monday.

"The premier's refusal to answer questions regarding Dean French today demonstrates a lack of respect for the people of Ontario, the very people whose interests he was elected to represent," Fraser said in a statement.

Ontario's strategic transformation adviser was fired last week as a report emerged that he had known French for a long time, including buying life insurance from him. The civil service said the office he led was being eliminated after reviewing its structure. 

 

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