Ontario's $348,000 per year trade rep post in Washington sitting vacant

·2 min read
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was in Washington in February, 2019, along with the then-premiers of New Brunswick, Blaine Higgs, centre, and Saskatchewan, Scott Moe. They were meeting U.S. officials to press for an end to tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada.  (James McCarten/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was in Washington in February, 2019, along with the then-premiers of New Brunswick, Blaine Higgs, centre, and Saskatchewan, Scott Moe. They were meeting U.S. officials to press for an end to tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada. (James McCarten/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Premier Doug Ford government's has left Ontario without a trade representative in Washington for weeks as U.S. lawmakers pushed forward with legislation that could damage the province's auto sector.

The government did not renew the three-year contract of Ian Todd when it expired on Oct. 22 and CBC News has learned that Todd stopped working at the end of September, leaving the U.S. capital on vacation for the final weeks of his contract.

The vacancy comes at a crucial time for Ontario in Washington. Democrats in Congress are finalizing a massive piece of legislation with potentially devastating implications for the province's auto sector. The nearly $2 trillion US bill includes a tax credit for electric vehicles that favours cars assembled in the U.S.

Ford appointed Todd in 2018 to be his special adviser in Washington at a yearly salary of $348,000. Before being appointed to the post, Todd was tour director for the Ontario PC Party's 2018 election campaign and did not have experience in international trade

The job description approved by Ford's cabinet included:

  • Representing the interests of the Province of Ontario in Washington, D.C., including advocating for Ontario's interests with senior United States of America government officials and decision-makers.

  • Advising the Premier on the delivery of the government's strategic priorities, including Ontario's relationship with the United States of America.

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Todd's appointment shifted slightly in 2019 to being special adviser to Vic Fedeli, the minister of economic development, instead of the premier. But he continued in the post of Ontario's representative in Washington and retained the $348,000 annual salary, which means he was paid more than $1 million for the three-year stint.

Ford and Fedeli were in Guelph on Wednesday morning to announce the government's new strategy for the auto sector, focused on making Ontario a manufacturing hub for electric vehicles and EV batteries.

CBC News asked Ford why there is no one in Ontario's trade representative post right now.

"He (Todd) ended up moving on and our minister right here Vic Fedeli is aggressively looking for the right person to fill that spot," said Ford.

In the meantime, Ford said he and Fedeli have been "on the phone" with officials in the U.S. to seek exemptions from Buy American provisions in the Democrat legislation.

"We're there," Ford said. "We'll do whatever it takes to get excluded from this Buy America."

The proposed U.S. legislation is a significant focus of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's trip to Washington this week.

Also on Wednesday, Biden was due to be in Detroit at the first General Motors plant to be converted to assembling electric vehicles.

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