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Doug Ford defends appointing gun manufacturer lobbyist to committee that picks judges

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Ontario’s official opposition is calling on the Doug Ford government to reverse appointments made to a committee that recommends judges after it was discovered they were also registered lobbyists.

Debate at Queen’s Park became heated Wednesday as Ontario Premier Doug Ford continued to face questions about recent additions to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee.

“You guys are so weak, it makes me sick,” the premier said of the New Democratic Party.

“I’m not going to double down, I’m not going to triple down, I’m going to quadruple down to make sure that violent criminals go to jail.”

NDP Leader Marit Stiles noted the decision to put the two Ford staffers on the judicial committee is “business as usual” for the Progressive Conservative government.

“Under this government, business as usual means insiders, donors, people with access come first every single time,” she noted.

“Ontarians don't want an American-style partisan judiciary.”

The questions come after two former members of the premier’s staff were selected for the judicial committee—two staffers who remain in close communication with the government through their roles as registered lobbyists.

Matthew Bondy, former deputy chief of staff to Ford, is registered as a lobbyist with Enterprise Canada. He works with a variety of clients, including Colt Canada, a subsidiary of the U.S. arms manufacturer Colt.

A list of clients for registered lobbyist Matthew Bondy. (Screenshot from registry)

The other new committee member is Brock Vandrick, Ford’s former director of stakeholder relations. He is also a registered lobbyist with clients like the Ontario Forest Industries Association, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies.

The office of the integrity commissioner has said there is nothing that precludes someone registered to lobby the government from serving on the judicial appointments committee or any other boards.

Members do, however, have to keep conflict of interest rules in mind.

Andrew Kennedy, a spokesperson for the province's Attorney General, said the two individuals were not registered to lobby their office.

“The appointments cleared and passed a rigorous conflict of interest screening process."

The Ford government has maintained they have a right to put “like-minded” individuals on the committee, whose role is to review applications and conduct interviews for Ontario court judges.

This committee then sends a list of recommendations to Attorney General Doug Downey’s office.

Downey hasn’t been shy about the government choosing former staffers to recommend judges.

“Obviously, I want advice from those that I respect,” Downey said earlier this week. “Shocking that a Conservative government wants to hear from Conservative voices.”

The premier went so far as to say that he hopes to appoint ‘like-minded judges’ that support his call for a harsher bail system.

Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie argued this isn’t how Canada’s justice system is supposed to work.

"The person Ford appoints to help pick judges is told to pick judges who will rule the way the Premier wants, and a few days later, he registers as a lobbyist to help get a gun manufacturer government grants,” Crombie said.

"Worse, it’s part of an intentional pattern. Doug Ford says he’s ‘for the people’ but what he’s really for is his rich, insider friends. He is not bumbling from one crisis to another. He is deliberately enacting a reckless Conservative agenda to help his Conservative cronies get ahead.”

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