TORONTO – Ontario’s opposition parties are calling for an investigation into allegations that a senior aide to Premier Doug Ford interfered in staffing matters at one of the province’s Crown corporations.
A Globe and Mail report published Tuesday alleged that Dean French, Ford’s chief of staff, personally asked the Ontario Power Generation to fire Alykhan Velshi, who used to hold a key role in the office of Ford’s predecessor – former Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown.
Citing unnamed sources, the report said Velshi was fired the day he started working for the OPG after French asked the head of the company’s board for his removal, but his termination has yet to formally take effect.
Ford, who became Tory leader in March – two months after Brown stepped down amid allegations of sexual misconduct he denies – has publicly accused his predecessor of leaving the party in a mess.
Brown’s election as mayor of Brampton, Ont., last month despite Ford’s successful attempt to block an earlier run for a regional chair position, has renewed the apparent animosity between the two politicians.
Velshi, who has deep roots in the Conservative party – he previously served in the office of former prime minister Stephen Harper – referred all questions to the OPG.
The government refused to comment on the allegations against Ford’s aide, and French did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
OPG CEO Jeffrey Lyash said that Velshi still works for the company and that he doesn’t publicly discuss personnel matters. Lyash added that he has never spoken with French.
“I’ve read what I’ve read in the paper but I personally don’t have knowledge of that,” he said. “Personnel decisions are mine as the CEO of the company, for Mr. Velshi and for every other employee, and I try to make them in a balanced way and confidentially.”
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner says Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner, or potentially another agency, should look into the matter.
“If it’s proven then I think (French) should resign because it’s an inappropriate over-reach of power,” he said.
NDP deputy leader Sara Singh said the move looks as if Ford’s office is settling a political grudge.
“The premier is taking out his political revenge or vendettas…on these individuals and they’re receiving these large severance packages which are coming from Ontario taxpayers,” she said.
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Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said if French made the call he, and the government, have a lot to answer for.
“If there’s confirmation that call was made, it was inappropriate, it was wrong and the premier and the minister and the chief of staff should answer questions about it,” he said.
© 2018 The Canadian Press