Ford's picks to choose judges are political operatives

Bondy and Vandrick, active lobbyists, are well-connected members of the right wing establishment

Ford's picks to choose judges are political operatives
Both of Ford's recent appointees to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee are registered lobbyists and political operatives. Matthew Bondy lobbies for Colt Canada, a subsidiary of the US arms manufacturer.

On February 1, Ontario’s Court of Justice updated its website to reflect most recent appointments to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee. The role of this committee is to develop criteria for the selection of judges, make recommendations, and to interview applicants for judicial appointments. In essence, this committee decides who will be a judge in Ontario.

Readers who also follow us on social media will recall us commenting on these appointments in mid-February, as the two most recent appointees are former Ford staffers. One appointee, Brock Vandrick, is Ford’s former director of “stakeholder relations.” The other is Matthew Bondy, Ford’s former chief of staff. Neither are lawyers or have any experience with the judicial system.

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At the time, mainstream media in Ontario had yet to cover the story. A few days later, coverage of the appointments started to kick off. While headlines in the Star called the appointment “blatant patronage”, Ford (in typical fashion) doubled down, and his pig-headed insistence on his right to appoint “like-minded” judges became the story instead.

In the week or so since, coverage of the issue has rolled on, primarily focusing on a “debate” as to whether Ford indeed does have this right. In recent days the discourse has devolved into looking at whether appointed judges have or have not made political donations, and to which party. On the February 29, 2024 episode of The Agenda, TVO ran misleading information about judges and their political donations, based on a report from the National Post, and has since run a “clarification” that remains misleading.

Suggesting a connection between political donations and appointments is a useful red herring to divert attention from the appointments themselves. What has been in short supply in the coverage is a look at the backgrounds and affiliations of the two appointees at hand. To sum up Matthew Bondy and Brock Vandrick as “former Ford staffers” is an exercise in papering over the nature and perspective of the two men, and why Ford had them on staff in the first place.

Brock Vandrick, appointed to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee late in 2023, was formerly an advisor to Ed Fast, Harper’s Minister of International Trade. Provincially, in addition to his role as Director of Stakeholder Relations for Ford, Vandrick was Chief of Staff for Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Vandrick’s day job is Senior Vice President at Wellington Dupont Public Affairs, a cross-border shop with offices in Canada and Washington DC, offering government relations, lobbying, communications, social media management, digital advertising and investor relations. Wellington Dupont was founded by former Alberta MP, Brian Storseth and its senior advisor is Tony Clement, former Ontario cabinet minister under Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, and cabinet member in Stephen Harper’s government. (Clement resigned from office in 2018 after confessing to sending unwanted pictures of his penis to a wide variety of women.)

Wellington Dupont has a “strategic partnership” with polling firm Mainstreet Research, “leveraging synergies” for clients of both firms in Canada and the US.

Given Vandrick’s previous position in the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, it’s perhaps unsurprising he is the registered lobbyist for Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (who are against amendments regarding firearms used by hunters) and GreenFirst, a paper and lumber producer. He was also lobbyist for the Ontario Forest Industries Association on the issue of a non-resident speculation tax, which the organization claims may create “barriers” to new Canadians seeking to work.

In May 2023, Vandrick penned an article for QP Briefing (a membership-only publication about political and legislative news at Queen’s Park) about vehicle theft. While regaling readers with tales of his own car being stolen, he congratulated the Ontario Solicitor General, Michael Kerzner, and Attorney General, Doug Downy, for investing $51M in new measures to “help police identify and dismantle organized crime networks and put thieves behind bars.” Vandrick was subsequently appointed to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee by Attorney General Downy in December of 2023.

In addition to working for Brian Storseth at Wellington, Vandrick is also involved in another business enterprise with the former Alberta MP. Both are directors of a company called ParcelPal Logistics, alongside Robert Faissal, a conservative donor who was noted in a 2019 Globe and Mail article to be one of the first significant donors to Canada Proud, and who was mentioned in the infamous Panama Papers.

ParcelPal, a Vancouver-based company, specializes in “last-mile delivery service and logistics solutions” with a network of couriers in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. In February 2024, the company announced it was getting into the “burgeoning field of crypto mining.”

Just two days ago, ParcelPal paid for a sponsored segment on YouTube to promote itself to cryptocurrency investors.

The second appointee, Matthew Bondy, widely-labeled as a “former Ford staffer” in reports, would more accurately be described as a lobbyist, fixer, and right wing think tanker. A member of the Army Reserve, Bondy was Chief of Staff for Education Minister Lisa Thompson in 2018/19 before being promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff for Doug Ford in 2019/20.

Bondy has already been a useful appointee. He was appointed chair of the board of the Ontario Trillium Foundation in 2022, an agency of the Ontario government which gives grants to Ontario non-profits, in 2022. According to the 2022/23 annual report, OTF granted more than $112M to “community organizations” that year. Bondy took over the role of chair from Michael Diamond, president of the Ontario PC Party. The board also includes Amber Kouvalis, wife of political operative Nick Kouvalis.

Bondy’s day job is VP of National Public Affairs at Enterprise Canada, a communications, government relations and lobbying shop staffed with a bevy of Conservative staffers and operatives often featured on Canadian news networks as pundits and commentators. Among the firm’s clients is Mackenzie Health, the hospital system which includes Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital, and the company recently opened a healthcare-specific practice.

Bondy is a registered lobbyist for Enterprise. In addition to lobbying for the Ontario Pork Producers Marketing Board, he also lobbies for Colt Canada, a subsidiary of the US arms manufacturer, with stated goals of expanding its facilities in Southwestern Ontario in order to expand production capacity to enable contracts with the Canadian Armed Forces.

Bondy also lobbies for IMT Defence, a Canadian manufacturer of munitions and tank components looking to “serve Canada’s defence needs… on procurement for munitions for the defence of Canada, the United States, Ukraine, and our friends and allies.”

Given Bondy represents the interests of arms manufacturers, his recent article in the Western Standard, calling on the opposition to increase military spending, is transparently serving the aims of his clients. Unsurprisingly, his conflict of interest is not noted with the article - a byline identifies Bondy only as a Senior Fellow of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a right wing think tank.

This coming April, Bondy will be a featured speaker at the Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference. The Canada Strong and Free Network is an offshoot of The Manning Centre, Preston Manning’s political advocacy organization, and the Manning Foundation, a for-profit think tank and education centre for conservative politicians and staffers.

Bondy’s work as an op-ed writer isn’t only domestic. His pro-Trump, pro-Israel, pro-defence spending opinion pieces have also been featured in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post.

Taken altogether, the pair of Vandrick and Bondy are deeply interwoven into the fabric of conservative operatives in Ontario and in Canada. As active lobbyists, they already serve as paid intermediaries between many corporations and associations and the legislature itself. No matter what you may make of their political affiliations and associations, working actively as a lobbyist while selecting judges presents a wide array of potential conflicts of interest, at the very least.

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