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Opposition cries foul as Premier Doug Ford’s list of patronage appointments grows





The list of Progressive Conservative party insiders getting plum provincial appointments from Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet is growing, less than eight months into the new government’s term.

The latest appointment prompting accusations of patronage is the government’s choice to chair the board of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), the provincial agency that administers standardized tests in Ontario schools. 

The new EQAO chair will be Cameron Montgomery, who ran for the PCs in Orléans in last June’s election and lost.  

Throughout the EQAO’s 20-year history, the chair position has always been a part-time post paying a per diem amounting to a few thousand dollars a year. In appointing Montgomery, the Ford government changed the chair’s job into a full-time post with a $140,000 annual salary, plus vacation, pension and benefits.

Montgomery is the latest person with connections to the PC party or Ford to get a six-figure job on the public dime. 

  • Ian Todd, appointed Ontario’s trade representative in Washington, D.C., at an annual salary of $350,000. That’s $75,000 more than the previous occupant, former Liberal cabinet minister Monique Smith. Todd was the tour director on Ford’s election campaign.
  • Rueben Devlin, named special adviser to the premier on health care, a position that did not previously exist, at an annual rate of $348,000. Devlin, a surgeon and longtime hospital CEO, is a former president of the Ontario PC Party and a member of Ford’s transition team.
  • Jenni Byrne, appointed to the Ontario Energy Board at an annual rate of $197,000. Byrne was Ford’s principal secretary, held senior posts with former prime minister Stephen Harper and is a former campaign director for the federal Conservative Party.
  • Gavin Tighe, named chair of the Public Accountants Council, the province’s regulatory body for the accounting profession, for a three-year term at $166,666 annually. Tighe is a lawyer who represented the premier’s late brother Rob Ford in two civil cases.

What is perhaps the Ford government’s most controversial appointment is on hold: Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner, a close friend of Ford, was named commissioner of the OPP, a post paying at least $275,000 per year. The province’s integrity commissioner is investigating whether Ford breached Ontario’s ethics laws with the appointment. 

The PCs were defending Montgomery’s appointment on Wednesday, pointing to his 14 years as an education professor at the University of Ottawa.

Cameron Montgomery will be the new chair of the EQAO. He has been an education professor at the University of Ottawa for 14 years. He was the Progressive Conservative candidate in the riding of Orléans in the 2018 election. (Submitted)

“This gentleman has an amazing pedigree,” Education Minister Lisa Thompson told reporters. “Between his experience and his absolute care to get this right, he’s the perfect candidate.” 

Montgomery’s Ph.D. is in educational psychology. A statement from EQAO said his research “focuses on student and educator stress, coping and burnout, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

Thompson said the PCs “were elected to fix the problem of the plummeting math scores under Kathleen Wynne’s watch.”

She was asked how appointing Montgomery as head of the standardized testing agency would help improve test scores. 

Thompson’s response: “​We feel we needed to start at the top and make sure that EQAO has the right leadership and full-time focus, to ensure that we have the type of administration when it comes to standardization that supports teachers and ultimately students in the classroom, so that parents once and for all have confidence in the system and students have the fundamentals to graduate.”

Education Minister Lisa Thompson. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

‘Ford gravy train’

The opposition parties are unconvinced.

“It’s another ticket to the Ford gravy train,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

“This is one of the things that erodes people’s confidence in the government,” Horwath told reporters at Queen’s Park on Wednesday. “It shows that Ford’s priorities are to put his favourite people in places where he can get a return on the favour.” 

“It doesn’t pass the smell test,” said interim Liberal Leader John Fraser. 

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Asked to characterize Montgomery’s appointment, Fraser said, “One word: patronage.” 

Which naturally leads to the question: isn’t it a bit rich for a Liberal to accuse the PCs of patronage? 

“Take a look at the pace with which this has happened … and we’re not even eight months out from the election,” responded Fraser. “Doug Ford says he’s for the people. I think he’s for his friends.” 

In his campaign platform, Ford didn’t explicitly pledge to end patronage appointments but did promise “to put the people ahead of insiders.” 

The PC campaign platform also promised to “fix the current EQAO testing regime that is failing our kids and implement a standardized testing program that works.”

Ford’s cabinet appointed Montgomery at the end of January but it only came to light when the cabinet order was published just before the Family Day long weekend.


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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches





Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year





Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend





OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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