Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday August 8, 2019
Has Doug Ford finally put the cronyism scandal behind him?
It is the calm after the summer storm in Premier Doug Ford’s government.
Seven weeks ago, Ford shook up his cabinet in a bid to reboot an administration that polls suggest is struggling — only to be immediately rocked by a cronyism scandal.
Dean French, the premier’s chief of staff, quit on June 21, a Friday night resignation that swamped news coverage of the massive switch of a dozen ministers just one day earlier.
While seven French-linked appointees have also stepped down or been forced out in the wake of the controversy, the departure appears to have triggered the reset the cabinet shuffle was meant to signal.
Yes, staffers have left or are leaving shortly — some because they’re seen as too close to the hard-charging ex-chief; others because they had long been fed up working for him.
However, Ford’s dismal poll numbers are fuelling anxiety within his Conservative caucus, suggesting the party has not put its problems behind it.
Overall, though, a sense of quiet professionalism has descended upon the premier’s office thanks largely to interim chief Jamie Wallace, a former Queen’s Park press gallery president and Postmedia executive who ran the Sun tabloid chain.
“It’s palpable,” confided one senior Progressive Conservative, like others speaking on background in order to discuss the scene in the premier’s office.
“Jamie’s been around Queen’s Park forever. He understands the place, he treats (the political staff) well, and he’s respectful to (the public servants),” said the Tory insider.
“He knows what he doesn’t know and isn’t afraid to ask someone who does,” said a retired cabinet minister, who has advised Wallace.
“You’d be surprised how rare that is in any government,” said the former PC minister, who has worked with Tories and Liberals at Queen’s Park.
Another PC official said Wallace, who worked briefly in government when Ernie Eves was premier, is implementing processes and discipline that were sorely lacking in a freewheeling 14-month-old administration.
“He understands the need for a plan,” said the official, noting things were so chaotic and ad hoc in the government that it at times seemed as if “message planning” was being driven by what happened to be on CP24, the premier’s favourite cable news channel, at the time.
Now that the “French connections” scandal appears to be fading from the headlines, the premier insists “we’re moving forward as a government.” (Hamilton Spectator)