TORONTO — A top staffer to Ontario Premier Doug Ford is leaving her post for a high-paid appointment with the province's energy regulator, the latest in what the Opposition calls a series of cushy jobs for Doug Ford's friends.
Ford has recommended Jenni Byrne, who has served as his principal secretary, become a full-time member of the Ontario Energy Board.
That's a two-year term that comes with an annual salary of about $197,000, the premier's office said.
NDP critic Peter Tabuns called it "another ticket on (Ford's) gravy train.''
"Doug Ford trades in favours and backroom deals, and clearly, he wants to make sure the people who are supposed to be independent from politicians — from police to energy regulators — are loyal to him,'' Tabuns said in a statement.
"Stacking the OEB with his buddies and turning our energy decision-making body into a dumping ground for Ford loyalists diminishes its independence, and will have major consequences for Ontario's energy sector.''
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Ford family friend Ron Taverner has been named Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, though the appointment has been delayed pending an investigation by the integrity commissioner. A deputy OPP commissioner is trying to get the courts to order the Ontario ombudsman to investigate as well, citing concerns about political interference.
Taverner initially did not meet the requirements listed for the commissioner position. The Ford government has admitted it lowered the requirements for the position to attract a wider range of candidates.
Past Progressive Conservative party president Rueben Devlin was granted a three-year term as a health-care adviser, Ford campaign adviser Ian Todd was appointed Ontario's trade representative to the United States, with a $350,000 salary, and Ford family lawyer Gavin Tighe was appointed to the Public Accountants Council.
'An invaluable resource'
Byrne, who was Ford's director of field operations during last year's election and who also ran former Prime Minister Stephen Harper's campaigns in 2011 and 2015, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, Ford said Byrne had been "an invaluable resource'' to him, his office and all members of the government.
"I wish to sincerely thank her for dedication in working in the best interests of the people of Ontario,'' he wrote.
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