When Doug Ford adjourned the Ontario Legislature for five months, until well after the Federal election in the Fall, all the talk out there about this move was that this was an attempt to try to lay low and stay out of the news to help Andrew Scheer. And while at least that seemed like that was the plan, it sure hasn’t gone that way. We saw the massive cabinet shuffle last week, then followed by the nomination of Renata Ford for the PPC in Etobicoke. To top it all off, we saw this late Friday:
Yes Dean French, the noted Chief of Staff to Doug Ford “resigned”, and I put that in quotations for a couple of reasons. For starters, this move had all the hallmarks of a firing, not a resignation, despite the Ford Conservatives assurances that this was all in the works for a long time. You see, the plan was for French to always leave around this time and go back to the private sector. Well if that didn’t pass the smell test, the events of the past two days have surely confirmed a lot of what was suspected:
Wow folks, and this is all before sunset today. For starters, as was pointed out there, who has their “resignation” planned for a long time but doesn’t clear out their desk on the last day, requiring a return trip to do so? No one, that’s who. That’s a clear sign of a firing if any. But then you add to that the stories of Mr. French’s demeanour, his “words of encouragement” to the Premier’s staff and assurances that he’s still the man. None of that is normal, sane or a sign of a well-functioning government. And yet, that’s still not the end of all of this. More and more came out today:
A niece, the St. Mike’s Lacrosse team memorial government appointments, oh my Lord. For all the Ford talk over a decade about gravy trains and the determination to end them, it seems like Dean French might have been the biggest conductor on the Greater Toronto Gravy Railway. And folks, these weren’t for small, token positions. One of the jobs to a lacrosse buddy of the family was for three years at over $160,000 a pop. That’s much more than an elected MPP in Ontario makes, let alone someone working in the Ontario civil service whose being threatened with job cuts or wage freezes. Then there’s the niece of Dean French, who was getting $1,400 a day for each meeting she attended with her appointment. And according to reports out today, this has seeped in everywhere and there are many other French patronage appointments all over the Ontario government. Stay tuned for more news on that front I get.
Yet on top of all of this, Ford himself was at his annual Ford Fest on the weekend screaming about downtown insiders and people taking advantage of the people over and over. But nowhere in those words did he happen to mention that his own people were at the front of any gravy rations from this government “For the People”. As more of these names come out about appointments, it’s becoming clearer and clear which people he was talking about, if that wasn’t already clear before.
What blows my mind about this whole story so far is that it took this crew basically a year to reach this point. Most governments who end up befalling this kind of behaviour get there after terms in office, which is when the rot starts to set in and this behaviour happens. But with the Ford Conservatives, this all seemed to come with the moving vans right after the election. It almost seems that they couldn’t wait. And the undercurrent to this whole story is something we’ve all wondered a bit before, but are starting to wonder more and more loudly; who is really running this government? The more that these stories come out, the more it feels like this Premier simply isn’t running his own show, that the Dean French’s of the World are really pulling all the levers. That doesn’t make for a good situation for Ontarians. A good leader empowers his or her staff; a lesser leader is lead around by them.
We’re starting to get a better picture of which of these Mr. Ford is right now. We’ll see what happens when Mr. French’s replacement is put in place and how that affects how this government is run. So far Year One of the Ford Conservative government has been a combination of a circus and a dumpster fire or chaos. Will we see that change or will we see more of the same? Time will tell but if the start to this week is any indication, the shadow of Dean French promises to be a long one and may not leave anytime soon.