Canada’s most corrupt Premier: Doug Ford or Jason Kenney?
Since being elected, Doug Ford and his government have been embroiled in scandal after scandal. A poll conducted in July showed that about 60% of Ontarians considered his administration to be corrupt.
Jason Kenney now appears to be following in Ford’s footsteps, entangling himself in a web of unscrupulous behaviour and sketchy dealings.
Both Premiers have a penchant for shady governance, but who stands above the other as Canada’s most corrupt Premier?
Doug Ford: King of patronage and nepotism
Right out the gate, Ontarians got a glimpse of Ford’s proclivity for doling out cushy jobs and appointments to friends and allies.
In July 2018, Doug Ford rewarded his friend and former Progressive Conservative Party president, Rueben Devlin, with an obscure appointment that paid $350,000.
The Ontario Premier’s real troubles began back in late 2018 when he attempted to appoint his long-time friend Ron Taverner as the OPP commissioner. Ford’s government even lowered the requirements of the hiring process so that Taverner could be eligible. He would end up being handed the job but later stepped away from the controversial appointment after public backlash.
By the spring of 2019, Doug Ford had overseen a growing list of patronage appointments. His family lawyer was handed an appointment with a six-figure salary. Failed PC candidates received high-profile jobs in the public sector. Former staffers and lobbyists alike had their fair share of roles to play in Ford’s new government. Most notably, Ian Todd, a senior staffer on his campaign, was appointed to represent Ontario in Washington, D.C., a position which would pay him $350,000 a year.
Things came to a head in June of 2019 with the now-infamous Dean French scandal. French, the Premier’s chief-of-staff, was handing out public jobs to his friends and family. Perhaps the most shocking of all was the appointment of Tyler Albrecht, a university graduate who played lacrosse with French’s son. The 26-year old Albrecht had no substantive work experience, but he was a friend of the French family. That, it seems, was enough under the Ford government to give him a $164,000 a year appointment to represent the province in New York.
Ford and his government went into full crisis management mode. A cabinet shuffle, a promise to change the appointments process, and a 5-month disappearing act — they were all meant to make sure the public forgot about his cronyism. However, if the federal election results are any indication, “the people” remember.
Jason Kenney: A Graft-y Fraudster
Kenney was dogged with scandal from the day he became Premier. His leadership race was riddled with irregularities and an alleged ‘kamikaze’ candidate that ensured Kenney won the UCP’s top spot.
Shortly after arriving in office, Kenney announced a wave of patronage appointments, packing Alberta’s public boards, agencies, and commissions with UCP loyalists. Failed candidates, donors, and campaign staffers all got a piece of the pie. Instead of spreading out his patronage like Ford, Kenney rammed his crony appointments through in one blow.
Then came the news that Kenney had used $16,000 in public funds to fly fellow Conservative Premiers on private jets. The misuse of taxpayer dollars to facilitate a partisan photo-op was just the beginning of Kenney’s most recent problems.
Shortly after, his closest advisor came under fire for using public funds to pay for trips to London, fancy dinners, and luxury hotel accommodations. In the span of a few months, Kenney’s right-hand man spent $45,000 on just four trips to the United Kingdom.
On top of all this, there came the discovery of graft in Kenney’s inquiry on ‘foreign-funded’ climate activists. The inquiry’s commissioner had spent more than a third of his budget on fees to his son’s legal firm. Commissioner Steve Allan, appointed by Kenney himself, had given the firm a sole-source contract worth $905,000.
Now Kenney has fired the Elections Commissioner — the one man capable of thoroughly investigating the ‘kamikazee scandal’ from the UCP leadership race — and announced plans to roll back election finance laws and open a floodgate of dark money into Alberta election campaigns. One can only imagine the forms of corruption this wave of corporate money flowing into Alberta politics will create.
And the winner is…
While Doug Ford has a head start on Kenney, it appears that Alberta’s Premier has learned from Ford’s early mistakes in his efforts to reward his buddies and political allies.
While Ford has thus far received more public blowback for his scandals, Kenney’s interference in election oversight and campaign financing suggests that he is — shockingly — already overtaking Ford as Canada’s most corrupt Premier.