Premier Doug Ford’s chief of staff Dean French — a powerful backroom operative, considered by some as the shadow premier — has resigned amid a controversy of patronage appointments.
The Premier’s office released a stunning statement Friday evening saying Ford had accepted his chief of staff’s resignation and that French will be returning to the private sector “as he had always planned.”
The resignation comes on the same day that Ford revoked the appointments of two people to foreign posts after reports that they had close ties to French. It also comes one day after a major cabinet shuffle at Queen’s Park that saw numerous high-profile ministers moved to different portfolios.
While Ford looked to turn the page on an acrimonious first year in office with a stronger emphasis on communications, the patronage appointments seemed to derail the strategy, taking over the news cycle.
French’s resignation was met with disbelief and celebration within the entire Progressive Conservative party, including MPPs who tell CTV News Toronto there is a “wave of relief.”
“This is finally a true reset,” said one MPP who was granted anonymity to speak freely about the caucus reaction.
Other party insiders say French was known to have a brash temperament and would often scold MPPs and staff alike.
“He’s aggressive, he is mean, he is condescending,” said another party source who was granted anonymity.
French, the source says, would regularly threaten to kick staffers or elected MPPs out of the Progressive Conservative caucus “for not being a team player.”
Caucus sources also told CTV News Toronto that on two separate occasions French publicly engaged in shouting matches with elected MPPs who disagreed or questioned the government’s policies.
Now independent MPP Randy Hillier, who was forced out of the party in March, blamed French for his dismissal from the government benches.
French is suing a former Hillier alleging that he tried to “destroy” his reputation after he was kicked out of the party.
French is seeking $100,000 in damages, which he said he would donate to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Lanark County in Hillier's riding. Hillier denies the allegations.
NDP MPP Marit Stiles released a statement on behalf of the Official Opposition after French’s resignation, saying “the buck stops with Doug Ford.”
As long as he’s plowing ahead with his callous cuts for families, backroom deals for friends, and relentless bullying of anyone who disagrees with him, changing back room staff won’t help the people of Ontario who are hurting under the Ford regime.”
In a statement, Ford thanked his chief of staff for his leadership and friendship.
"He is leaving our government in a very strong position from where we can build upon our successes and continue delivering on our priorities for the people of Ontario," Ford said in a statement.
"Dean's legacy will be that of leading a historic and successful election campaign last year, as well as the incredible successes we have had in our government's first year. On behalf of the Government of Ontario, I wish Dean the very best in his future.”
The premier’s deputy chief of staff, Jamie Wallice, will assume the position of interim-chief of staff effective immediately.