Ontario reviewing political appointments after latest accusation of nepotism

Ontario's government says it will review all its upcoming appointments to office, after three such appointments were scuttled by accusations of nepotism in less than a week.

Niece of premier's former chief of staff quits Public Accountants Council

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

Ontario's government says it will review all its upcoming appointments to office, after three such appointments were scuttled by accusations of nepotism in less than a week.

Katherine Pal, an appointee to Ontario's Public Accountants Council, resigned on Tuesday after it became known that she is the niece, through marriage, of Premier Doug Ford's recently departed chief of staff Dean French.

Ford's office on Tuesday said the premier has ordered a review of "all pending appointments" and that anyone "appointed for the wrong reason … will be removed from their positions."

The statement added French "no longer has any influence in this government."

The NDP had called Pal's presence on the council another "gravy train" appointment by the Ford's Progressive-Conservative government. 

"This reeks of nepotism, with paycheques, power and favours for Ford's inner circle, while everyday Ontarians get nothing but cuts," MPP Taras Natyshak said in a statement.

French himself resigned late Friday after the premier rescinded the appointments of two other people with reported personal ties to French.

A day earlier, Ford announced four agents-general appointments — positions that haven't existed in the Ontario government since the 1990s — which come with salaries between $165,000 and $185,000. The roles aim to drum up business in the province.

Taylor Shields, an assistant vice-president of marketing for Chubb Insurance, was appointed to a post in London and Tyler Albrecht, a senior analyst at Optimize Capital Markets, was being sent to New York City.

The Globe and Mail reported that sources said Shields is related to French through his wife, and that Albrecht, 26, is friends with one of French's sons. A 2014 tweet from French said one of his sons and Albrecht are former lacrosse teammates.

Both appointments were revoked Friday.

Ford 'hit the roof'

A government source told CBC News that Ford "hit the roof" on Tuesday when Pal's connection to French was revealed. 

"It makes him look like he doesn't know what's going on in his own office," said the source. 

The government appoints hundreds of people to boards and commissions every year and the source said all are supposed to be properly vetted before they reach cabinet for approval. 

"Maybe she's qualified, but if we're making a patronage appointment we should know that we're making a patronage appointment," said the source. "The fact that we didn't know is the problem. It makes cabinet look like they're culpable or incompetent."

Public records show the cabinet order appointing Pal was made on Dec. 31, 2018. 

The position paid $700 per meeting, funded through public accountants' dues, and the Public Accountants Council meets four times a year. 

The council says Pal, a principal at Pal Insurance, was extremely well qualified to join and that her finance credentials are impeccable.

Pal did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Numerous appointments

The Ontario government has come under fire numerous times for appointments given to associates of the premier and the Progressive Conservative party.

Gavin Tighe, a Ford family lawyer and who is also acting for French in a defamation lawsuit he launched, was also appointed to the Public Accountants Council.

Ford also sparked a huge outcry when he named family friend Ron Taverner as Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, an appointment Taverner ultimately turned down.

Jenni Byrne left her post as Ford's principal secretary for an appointment with the Ontario Energy Board with an annual salary of about $197,000.

Past Progressive Conservative party president Rueben Devlin was granted a three-year term as a health-care adviser. Ford campaign adviser Ian Todd was appointed Ontario's trade representative to the United States, with a $350,000 salary, and failed Tory candidate Cameron Montgomery was appointed to lead a standardized testing organization.


With files from CBC News