Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s former chief of staff returned to Queen’s Park on Monday for final meetings with the Premier’s Office and senior officials, touting the Progressive Conservative government’s successes as the party said he will play no role in the re-election campaign.
Dean French, who resigned last Friday amid a patronage scandal, stunned some staff members when he showed up to Queen’s Park on Monday morning, but the Premier’s Office said he was simply bidding adieu after his abrupt departure from politics.
“Dean French came to Queen’s Park this morning to pack up his office. He said goodbye to staff, thanked them for their hard work and continued service to the Premier and the people of Ontario. Dean French is returning to the private sector,” said Laryssa Waler, Mr. Ford’s executive director of communications.
Mr. French will not receive any severance following his year in government, Ms. Waler said.
The Ontario PC Party also said Mr. French, who was named last January to the “election readiness committee” for the 2022 provincial campaign, will no longer play a role. PC spokesman Marcus Mattinson also said Mr. French is no longer on the board of the PC Ontario Fund, the fundraising arm of the party.
Mr. French’s resignation last Friday came hours after Mr. Ford abruptly revoked the appointments of two people with close ties to the chief of staff: Tyler Albrecht and Taylor Shields, who were named the new agents-general to New York and London, respectively, positions that come with salaries of $165,000 to $185,000, plus expenses.
The appointments of Mr. Albrecht, a 26-year-old friend of Mr. French’s sons who played lacrosse, and Ms. Shields, who is Mr. French’s wife’s second cousin, rankled cabinet ministers, MPPs and government insiders, sources said.
On Monday, Mr. French held brief meetings with staff from both the Premier’s Office and chiefs of staff to ministers.
A senior Conservative source called the postresignation meetings “highly unusual,” saying they sent a message to staffers that Mr. French is still in charge. A second source close to the government said Mr. French reportedly told Premier’s Office staff that he can still be helpful to the government on the outside, and that he’s not going to stop talking to the Premier, whom he’s known for 25 years.
The message, according to government insiders, is that Mr. French is still viewed as a close confidant of the Premier.
Others defended Mr. French, saying he did nothing out of the ordinary by meeting with staff.
“I was in the room when
@Dean_French addressed the Chiefs of Staff this am. He thanked us all for everything we’ve done over our historic first year in government. Any suggestion otherwise is b.s.," Jan O’Driscoll, chief of staff at transportation, tweeted on Monday.
During his time at Queen’s Park, Mr. French was accused of overstepping his role, including allegations of keeping a close eye on MPPs to see if they gave the Premier and caucus members standing ovations in the legislature. On Monday, the Premier’s Office said Mr. French received standing ovations led by individual staff members at the meetings.
Jamie Wallace, a former top Sun newspaper executive who served as deputy chief of staff, has taken over Mr. French’s post until a replacement is named.
With a report from Jill Mahoney
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