The Ontario Liberals and PCs are locked in a war of words over appointments to public roles after a Liberal campaign event called out “the Conservative gravy train at Queen’s Park.”
At an announcement Sunday morning, Ontario Liberal candidate Mitzie Hunter said that 40 per cent of 2018 PC candidates that did not win their seats were given “patronage appointments” by the PC government.
The Liberals said they had identified 16 of the 41 defeated candidates who were given roles in the PC government.
“Doug Ford’s gravy train never stopped — it just kept chugging along,” Hunter said.
The list of candidates with appointments shared by the Liberals included a range of roles — some with salaries worth more than $100,000 and others with per diem payments of less than $200.
Cameron Montgomery, who ran for the PCs in Orléans, was on the list. He was appointed as chair of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) Board of Directors in 2019, a controversial appointment at the time.
Three former candidates held roles within government ministries working for PC ministers, while five held board seats at places like the Ontario Trillium Foundation or the Ontario Science Centre, according to the Ontario Liberals’ research.
Others received per diem from the government for their roles.
Neither Doug Ford or Steven Del Duca, the two party leaders, have public events scheduled for Sunday.
“Governments appoint thousands of people to positions across the province – there are a lot of positions that need to be filled by governments,” Tim Abray, a PhD candidate and teaching fellow at Queen’s University told Global News.
Abray noted that the sixteen positions in question represent a small portion of what a government would typically hire, and while the practice of patronage hires is not desirable, it’s commonplace in political settings — as long as it’s not abused.
“It is extremely normal behaviour for partisan political parties to choose people they know and trust to fill public positions.”
Moreover, Abray criticized all the parties for the constant mudslinging and that they should focus on the policies they can bring to the table to enhance Ontarians’ lives.
“There are much bigger fish to fry in this campaign, and in many ways, I think this going to trivialize the issue and disillusion people further that the people up for election aren’t paying election to the most salient issues,” he said.
The PCs have hit back, saying the Liberals were trying to “distract from their failure to recruit a full slate of candidates.”
Hunter did not explain how a Liberal government — if elected — would ensure roles were not given to people loyal to the party. She said the Liberals believe in “transparency and governance” and the party appointed people from across the political spectrum while in power.
She estimated that two former Liberal candidates had been handed patronage roles.
However, a 2016 press release from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation — recirculated by the PCs — said that nine per cent of “federal and provincial Liberal candidates who failed, retired, or subsequently won an election between 2007 and 2016” were given an appointment.
Hunter made several references to the resignation of Dean French, who served as Doug Ford’s chief of staff at the beginning of his term as premier. French resigned after it was reported that two appointments to work for the Ontario government as agents in New York and London, U.K., were linked to him.
Tyler Albrecht, a friend of French’s son, was appointed to a posting in New York, while Taylor Shields, a cousin of French’s wife, was appointed to a posting in London, U.K.
“Mr. French informed the Premier that he will be returning to the private sector after a successful first year of government, as he had always planned,” a spokesperson said at the time.
— With files from Global News’ Ahmar Khan