TORONTO – The appointment process in Ontario needs to be revamped to prevent a repeat of a patronage controversy that has dogged the Progressive Conservative government, says the province’s Green party leader.
Mike Schreiner proposed a number of reforms to the system on Wednesday, including merit-based selection, which currently is only required for adjudicative tribunals appointments. He said the changes would help restore confidence and trust in government.
Premier Doug Ford has promised a more transparent appointment process following the abrupt resignation of his chief of staff, Dean French, last month amid reports people close to him had been given lucrative foreign postings.
“Government appointments should be based on merit, not who happened to play lacrosse with the premier’s chief of staff,” Schreiner said. “It’s clear that the current appointments process is deeply flawed, and we need to fix it now.”
The Green party leader also wants to see a public complaints and investigation capacity added to the current system and an all-party select committee created to reform the process.
Schreiner said his plan includes recommendations to make the selection process fair for appointees and accountable to Ontario residents.
“I’m not saying … that it would be inappropriate for the government to appoint somebody whose values and vision is in line with the government’s policy agenda,” he said. “But they should certainly have at the very least, the minimum qualifications to do the job.”
Ford’s office said Wednesday that his staff are reviewing all pending appointments and the province’s Treasury Board is probing the appointment process to strengthen conflict of interest screening.
“If the premier finds that people have been appointed for the wrong reason and are not performing to the highest standards these individuals will be removed from their positions,” spokeswoman Kayla Iafelice said in a statement.
The government’s internal reviews aren’t good enough, Schreiner said.
“That’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house, and I don’t think that having a behind-closed-doors process is going to restore trust or confidence,” he said.
In the weeks since French’s departure, more appointees he forwarded have come under scrutiny and resigned after their links to him were revealed.
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.
The head of a committee that helps appoint justices of the peace, Andrew Suboch, stepped down after it was reported that he had ties to the premier’s former chief of staff.
Ian Neita, a board member for the Workplace Safety Insurance Board appointed in December, submitted his resignation earlier this month after the NDP revealed that in 2013 he helped coach a Toronto girls’ basketball team with French.