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Ontario Premier-Designate Ford Names Transition Team, Chief of Staff

Premier-designate Doug Ford wasted no time in launching the transition process as he prepares to be sworn-in on June 29th as Ontario’s 26th Premier.

Today, he held his first press conference in this new role. In it, he reiterated that the initial focus of his new government will be to get the province’s finances in order.

He discussed that he had spoken with outgoing Premier Kathleen Wynne about the timing of transition and also spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Mr. Ford set a respectful tone in his comments and it will be very interesting to see how his relationship with the Prime Minister evolves in the short term given the ambitious agenda the Premier-designate has, and the chance that it comes into conflict with the Trudeau agenda just over a year away from the next election.

The Team

Mr. Ford also announced his Chief of Staff would be Dean French, a long-time political ally and friend of the Ford family. Mr. French served as campaign chair during the election, spending most of his time in close quarters with the Premier-designate and has also been involved for many years with the provincial party.

In addition, he announced his transition team, which will be chaired by Chris Froggatt. Mr. Froggatt played an integral role in helping Mr. Ford win the leadership and then again on the provincial campaign as vice-chair. He is a veteran of many campaigns provincially and federally, and served at senior levels both at Queen’s Park and with the Harper Conservatives.

The transition team also includes:

  • former provincial and federal Tory cabinet minister John Baird, whose experience and advice at both levels of government will be extremely helpful to Mr. Ford;
  • Simone Daniels (a long-time associate of the Ford family and senior executive with Deco Labels and Tags);
  • Rueben Devlin (former CEO of Humber River Hospital); and,
  • Mike Coates (long-time Conservative and senior public affairs professional who worked in the Ford War Room), will all serve on the team.

It is fair to say that Mr. Ford has appointed an experienced team of individuals who also were heavily involved in his successful campaign.

What Comes Next?

Many assume transition is just about Cabinet-making. In reality, it’s a complex process that involves a great deal of decision making in a short period of time.

In addition to a formal transition team, it will involve a number of people, including advisors from outside the campaign team who may have previous political, public service and transition experience.

In addition to determining which MPPs will be part of a Cabinet, Mr. Ford must determine who will be his key political staff in the Premier’s office, including a Principal Secretary, Director of Policy and Director of Communications.

Mr. Ford’s team will likely have great influence over who will serve as chief political staff in key Ministerial offices. Staffing up of these offices can take days or sometimes weeks as they are often recruited from similar partisan circles across the province and country.

Mr. Ford will also have to make a decision on when to recall the legislature, when he will have his first Speech from the Throne, and what the contents of that speech will be – all of which will depend on how quickly the government wants or needs to move on key measures.

A new government will also typically appoint a new Cabinet Secretary to help refresh the upper echelons of the public service. With these changes, stakeholders will likely see new faces at these levels and have new relationships to build.

The Cabinet Secretary and senior public service will have to brief Mr. Ford and his team on several issues, including a road map on how to actually implement all the promises made by the winning party during the campaign.

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