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UPDATE (10 pm): 87 active wildfires and 8 wildfires-of-note in Cariboo Fire Centre

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UPDATE (10 p.m.):

The fire located 3 km south of Lang Lake fire increased to 440 hectares this evening. The one just north of Lang Lake increased to 345 hectares.

As a result, the CRD has issued an evacuation order for the Lang Lake/Murphy Lake area. The evacuation includes parts of Hawkins Lake and Eagle Creek that were previously on alert.

RELATED: Evacuation orders issued for Tatelkuz Lake and Lang Lake and Murphy Lake area

UPDATE (7 p.m.):

The Wild Goose Lake has increased to 3,300 hectares, according to the BC Wildfire Service map.

The map also shows that the fire east of Young Lake has increased to 135 hectares.

UPDATE (6 p.m.):

There are currently Cariboo Regional District Emergency Operations Centre has four evacuation alerts and two evacuation orders in effect as of Friday, Aug. 10.

The TNRD has also issued an evacuation alert for the Wild Goose Lake area.

Fire information officer Jessica Mack confirmed Friday evening that the information showing on BC Wildfire Services’ Wildfire-of-Note page has been updated with the most current information.

Here is the most up-to-date information, according to that page:

The Blackwater River fire, east of Blackwater River in the Nazko area, has increased to an estimated 2,000 hectares. Sixteen firefighters, one helicopter and six pieces of heavy equipment are on site and are continuing to work towards building a fireguard.

The Horsefly Lake fire, located north of Horsefly Lake and west of Haggens Point Road, remains at 526 hectares in size. Ground crews continue to reinforce guards and establish a wet-line perimeter, according to BC Wildfire Service. The fire is 90 per cent contained and 2 firefighters, 12 pieces of heavy equipment and three helicopters are on site. Airtankers are available if necessary.

The Houseman Road fire, 14 km east of 100 Mile House and south-west of Buffalo Lake, is estimated at 19.5 hectares in size. The fire is 10 per cent contained. Twenty firefighters and four pieces of heavy equipment continue to work to establish a guard in order to contain it in its entirety.

The evacuation order remains in effect for 57 properties in the Houseman Road area. Evacuees are being directed to the Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School, at at 200 7 St, in 100 Mile House.

RELATED: UPDATE: Evacuation reception centre moves to Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School, in 100 Mile House

The Lang Lake fire, 5 km south-east of Lang Lake and 10 km north of Canim Lake remains at 200 hectares. A sole fire officer is on site because of safety concerns and difficult terrain. The fire is being assessed and heavy equipment continues to work towards establishing containment lines.

An evacuation alert remains for 396 properties in the Hawkins Lake and Eagle Creek areas.

RELATED: 396 properties in Hawkins Lake and Eagle Creek area on evacuation alert

The fire north-west of Mayfield Lake is approximately 100 hectares in size. Airtankers attended to this fire today and will continue supporting the 21 firefighters, two helicopters and three pieces of heavy equipment are on site. The fire is 20 per cent contained and crews will continue building a guard around the perimeter.

181 properties from Mayfield Lake north to Buckley Drive and west to the Fraser River, including Springhouse, are under an evacuation alert.

The Narcosli Creek fire, approximately 31 km south-west of Quesnel has increased to 3,100 hectares in size. Thirty firefighters, two helicopters and six pieces of heavy equipment are on site, continuing to establish control lines to prevent further growth.

The CRD issued an evacuation alert for the Narcosli Creek area north to West Quesnel.

The Shag Creek fire remains at 7,000 hectares in size. BC Wildfire Service personnell continue to monitor this fire after pulling crews off site for safety reasons. The fire progressed in a north easterly direction today.

An evacuation order remains in effect for 93 properties between the north western boundary of the CRD to the southern edge of Tsacha Lake.

The Wild Goose Lake fire remains at 2,500 hectares in size. Fifty-four firefighters, one helicopter and four pieces of heavy equipment are on site, working on establishing a fire guard. Additional resources will arrive tomorrow. This fire is 30 per cent contained.

The TNRD has issued an evacuation alert for the area surrounding Wild Goose Lake, including properties north and east of Clink Lake.

RELATED: TNRD announces evacuation alert for Wild Goose Lakes area, includes Clink and Ridge Lake and parts of Dog Creek Road

UPDATE (4:45 p.m.): The Houseman Road fire, south-west of Buffalo Lake, is now estimated to be 19.5 hectares, according to the BC Wildfire Service map.

The map also shows the fire south east of 70 Mile has increased to 524 hectares and the fire north of Mahood has increased to 360 hectares.

The Wild Goose Lake fire, which is still showing at 2,500 hectares, is moving in a northeast direction. In an email response, fire information officer Jessica Mack said, “As of early this afternoon, the fire is demonstrating aggressive fire behaviour.”

She said crews are on the south flank, working to implement a fuel free guard. Heavy equipment will work overnight and more resources are on the way.

“All of the Wildfire of Note pages have been updated with the most updated information that we have.

UPDATE (1:30 p.m.): The Wild Goose Lake fire is now estimated to be 2,500 hectares, according to the BC Wildfire Service map.

ORIGINAL STORY: There are 87 active wildfires and seven wildfires-of-note in the Cariboo Fire Centre as of Friday, Aug. 10.

Fire information officer Robyn Clark said in an email update that 11 new fires have been discovered since Thursday, Aug. 9. Six of these were in the 100 Mile House area, one in the horsefly area, one in Quesnel and three in the Williams Lake area.

The Horsefly Lake, Shag Creek, Wild Goose Lake, Narcosli Creek, Lang Lake and Houseman Road fires are listed as fires-of-note.

The Horsefly Lake fire, located north of Horsefly Lake and west of Haggens Point Road, is estimated at 526 hectares in size. Ground crews continue to reinforce guards and establish a wet-line perimeter, according to BC Wildfire Service. The fire is 90 per cent contained and 28 firefighters, 12 pieces of heavy equipment and three helicopters are on site.

The Shag Creek fire, located west of Shag Creek, is estimated at 7,000 hectares. Crews have been pulled off of this fire for their own safety and because of its current and expected behaviour. This fire will be continually monitored.

Properties in the Shag Creek area are under an evacuation order from the Cariboo Regional District.

The Wild Goose Lake fire, estimated at 1,400 hectares, is 30 per cent contained. Ground crews worked on the eastern flank on Thursday and will continually work at establishing fire guard to contain the fire in its entirety.

Fifty-four firefighters, one helicopter and four pieces of heavy equipment are on site.

The Blackwater River fire, east of Blackwater River int he Nazko area, is estimated at 1,184 hectares. Sixteen personnel, one helicopter and six pieces of heavy equipment are on site and are working on building a fireguard.

The Narcosli Creek fire, north of Tzenzaicut Lake and west of Kersley, is estimated at 1,200 hectares. Thirty firefighters, two helicopters and six pieces of equipment are on site, working on establishing control lines.

The Lang Lake fire, east of the north end of Lang Lake, is estimated at 200 hectares. One firefighter is on site to assess the situation and four pieces of heavy equipment are working to establish containment lines. BC Wildfire Service will deploy more resources as they become available.

The Houseman Road fire, south-west of Buffalo Lake, is estimated at 12 hectares and is now 10 per cent contained. Twenty firefighters and four pieces of heavy equipment are on site, working to establish a guard to contain the fire in its entirety.

The Cariboo Regional District issued an evacuation order for 57 properties in the Houseman Road area on Thursday, Aug. 9.

RELATED: UPDATE: Evacuation reception centre moves to Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School, in 100 Mile House

Six fires were called out on Thursday, Aug. 9 – one in the Quesnel area, one in the Horsefly area, three in the 100 Mile House area and one in the Chilcoltin area.

The largest active fire in the 100 Mile fire zone is estimated at 80 hectares and is north of Mahood Lake.

The largest active fire in the Williams Lake region is 10 km southwest of Springhouse and is estimated at 45 hectares.

All of the Cariboo Fire Centre is under a campfire ban as half of its fire danger rating is “high,” while the other half is “extreme,” said BC Wildfire Service, especially in the Chilcotin Fire Zone.

Anybody found in violation of the ban can be ticketed up to $1,150, required to pay up to $10,000 for an administrative penalty, and could face a $100,000 fine or one year of jail time if convicted in court.

If a fire causes or contributes to a wildfire, the responsible party can be ordered to pay all costs for firefighting.

No rain or lightning is expected today and none happened yesterday, either.

BC Wildfire Service included a summary of other active fires, by zone, in its update.

The following information is accurate as of first thing Friday morning:

Wildfires of Note

There are currently seven Wildfires of Note within the Cariboo Fire Centre. Please check here for future updates on these fires.

Horsefly Lake (C31678), Cariboo Fire Centre

Location: North of Horsefly Lake and west of Haggens Point Road

Status: 526 hectares mapped, 90% contained

Cause: Lightning-caused

Resources: 28 firefighters, 12 pieces of heavy equipment and 3 helicopters.

Fire Camp in place: None

Objectives: Ground crews are continuing to reinforce guards and establishing a wet line perimeter.

Evacuations: No Evacuation Alert for this wildfire.

Other: N/A

Shag Creek (C11837), Cariboo Fire Centre

Location: West of Shag Creek

Status: 7000 hectares estimated, 0% contained

Cause: Lightning-caused

Resources: None

Fire Camp in place: None

Objectives: Given current and expected fire behavior, crews have been pulled off this fire for safety reasons. BC Wildfire Service is continuing to monitor this fire.

Evacuations: An Evacuation Order has been implemented by the Cariboo Regional District for properties in the Shag Creek area. For more information, please visit the Cariboo Regional District Website: www.cariboord.bc.ca

Other: N/A

Wild Goose Lake (C41745), Cariboo Fire Centre

Location: Wild Goose Lake

Status: 1400 hectares mapped, 30% contained

Cause: Lightning-caused

Resources: There are 54 firefighters, one helicopter, and four pieces of heavy equipment on site.

Fire Camp in place: None

Objectives: Ground crews worked on the eastern flank yesterday and will continue working to establish fire guard to achieve full containment.

Evacuations: None

Blackwater River (C12328), Cariboo Fire Centre

Location: East of Blackwater River in the Nazko area

Status: 1184 hectares mapped, 0% contained

Cause: Lightning-caused

Resources: There are 16 personnel, one helicopter, and six pieces of heavy equipment on site.

Fire Camp in place: None

Objectives: Crews and equipment will continue building fireguard.

Evacuations: None

Other: N/A

Narcosli Creek (C12302), Cariboo Fire Centre

Location: North of Tzenzaicut Lake, west of Kersley

Status: 1200 hectares estimated, 0% contained

Cause: Lightning-caused

Resources: There are 30 firefighters, two helicopters and six pieces of heavy equipment on site.

Fire Camp in place: None

Objectives: Ground crews will continue establishing control lines.

Evacuations: None

Other: N/A

Lang Lake (C42138), Cariboo Fire Centre

Location: East of the north end of Lang lake

Status: 200 hectares estimated, 0% contained

Cause: Lightning-caused

Resources: One firefighter and four pieces of heavy equipment are on site.

Fire Camp in place: None

Objectives: One firefighter is on site assessing the situation and equipment is working to establish containment lines. More resources will be deployed as they become available.

Evacuations: None

Other: N/A

Houseman Road (C42363), Cariboo Fire Centre

Location: Southwest of Buffalo Lake

Status: 12 hectares estimated, 10% contained

Cause: Lightning-caused

Resources: There are 20 firefighters and four pieces of heavy equipment on site.

Fire Camp in place: None

Objectives: Ground crews are working to establish guard in order to gain full containment.

Evacuations: An Evacuation Order has been implemented by the Cariboo Regional District for properties in the Houseman Road area. For more information, please visit the Cariboo Regional District Website: www.cariboord.bc.ca

Other: N/A

Quesnel zone

There are 19 wildfires burning in this zone, three were discovered yesterday afternoon.

C11853 –20 ha– Wells/Barkerville –Under Control –Six firefighters on site.

C11819 –60 ha –Swift River–Being Held –35 firefighters on site.

C11837 –700ha –Shag Creek—see Wildfire of Note above.

C12302 –1200 ha– Narcosli Creek –see Wildfire of Note above.

C12230 –40 ha– West of Pantage Lake/South of Big Valley Creek. This fire experienced aggressive fire behaviour yesterday. No structures or communities are threatened at this time.

C12328 –1184 ha— East of Blackwater River —See Wildfires of Note above.

C12338—0.1 ha– Chevans Creek –Personnel is on site to assess the fire. No communities or structures are threatened at this time.

C12365 –60 ha –China Bluff – south of Kluskoil Lake park –Currently being assessed and is in close proximity to C12328.

Williams Lake Zone

There are nine fires burning, all of these are Under Control.

C21673 –199 ha –Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park –Under Control – being monitored

C21875 –15 ha –Tom Hutch Creek –Under Control –being monitored

C22283 –9.5 ha –Stum Lake – 22 firefighters on site –Under Control

C22371 – 45 ha – 10 kilometres southwest of Springhouse – There are 21 firefighters on site

Horsefly zone

There are 22 active fires. All fires have been assessed and actioned in priority sequence.

C31689 –420 ha –Quartz Mountain –Being monitored

C31691 –80 ha –east arm Quesnel Lake –Being monitored

C31688 –12 ha –Heningram FSR—Crew is on site

C31678 – 526ha – Horsefly Lake –east of Viewland Mountain – See Wildfire of Note above.

C31606 –16 ha –north of Buxton Creek –15 firefighters on site—Under Control

C31692 –50 ha—east of Warttig Lake –Being monitored

C32320 –6 ha –Tisdal Lake –This fire was discovered yesterday and crews are actioning the less active flank at this time.

C32372 – South of Tasse Lake – This fire was discovered yesterday and is estimated at 0.3 hectares

100 Mile zone

There are 32 active fires. All fires have been assessed and actioned in priority sequence.

C41745 –1400 ha –Wild Goose Lake –See Wildfire of Note above.

C42133 –10 ha –west of Lang Lake –A crew is onsite –Being Held

C42138 –200 ha –south of Lang Lake –see Wildfires of Note above.

C42324 –400 ha –70 Mile—One helicopter and 29 personnel are on site. No communities or structures are threatened at this time.

C42331 –30 ha –Young Lake—Updated size due to accurate mapping.

C42358 – 80 ha – Southwest of Clearwater Lake, north of Mahood Lake – This fire is being monitored.

C42363 – 12 ha – Houseman Road –see Wildfires of Note above.

Chilcotin zone

The Chilcotin Fire Zone currently has three active wildfires.

C51925 –120 ha –Chantslar Lake –43 personnel on site –Under Control

C51752 –55 ha – south of Itcha Ilgatchuz Park –Crews are making excellent progress, there are 18 personnel onsite –Being Held


beth.audet@100milefreepress.net

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Doug Ford promises to balance books, targets Trudeau and team at PC convention

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Premier Doug Ford promised to balance Ontario’s budget, without providing specifics, while broadening his attack on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax at a gathering of Progressive Conservative party faithful on Friday.

Mr. Ford used his opening night speech at the Ontario PC party convention to tout his party’s economic plan after his government introduced its first fiscal update this week, when the Tories announced the provincial deficit had fallen by $500 million to $14.5 million.

“The Liberals kept picking your pockets. Always finding new fees, finding new taxes. And even after introducing billions in new taxes, they left Ontario with a $15-billion dollar deficit,” Mr. Ford said to boos from hundreds of PC members who gathered for the first time since the June election. “We will balance that budget as sure as I’m standing here, because it’s the right thing to do.”

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Still, Mr. Ford did not give a timeline for balancing the province’s books, despite the fact that the PCs promised during the election campaign that they would return to balance by the end of their mandate.

The Ontario Premier also broadened his attack against Mr. Trudeau and the federal carbon tax to include the Prime Minister’s “advisers.” Mr. Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, who worked at Queen’s Park for former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty until 2008, frequently targets Mr. Ford on social media for the Premier’s decision to pull out of the cap and trade program and for his lack of climate policy.

“We will fight the carbon tax right to the end. The Prime Minister, his ministers, his advisers, they want to impose a carbon tax that will jack up the price of everything, every good and every service,” Mr. Ford, whose government is challenging the tax in court, said. “I’m putting the Prime Minister on notice. We’ve already taken Kathleen Wynne’s hands out of your pockets. And Justin Trudeau … you’re next,” he said, to the night’s loudest applause and cheers.

Mr. Ford also took pains to praise his finance minister, Vic Fedeli, who faces allegations in former PC leader Patrick Brown’s new book. Mr. Brown alleges Mr. Fedeli was the subject of an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations last year. Mr. Fedeli has called the claims false and malicious.

“Minister Vic Fedeli, one of the most honourable men I have ever worked with … told us how we are going to get Ontario back on track. We’re going to watch every single penny,” Mr. Ford said.

Although Mr. Ford’s speech was met with cheers and applause, the large convention centre room was not at capacity, and chatter filled the space during the speech.

Despite Mr. Ford’s assurances that the “Ontario PC Party has never been stronger,” the PCs are facing a bitter battle for party president at the gathering in Toronto this weekend, as members will also vote on measures to clean up nomination races and membership sales.

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The party’s general meeting comes on the heels of Mr. Ford’s majority government election victory and after months of turmoil sparked by the forced resignation Mr. Brown amid sexual misconduct allegations. Mr. Brown, recently elected as mayor of Brampton, denies the accusations.

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Meet Dean French, the political unknown who has become an omnipresent force in Ford's government

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When Ontario Progressive Conservatives gathered for a “unity rally” last March, the plan was for Doug Ford to be introduced by the candidates he had defeated for his party’s leadership days earlier.

It was to be an important gesture of conciliation, after a hurried and heated race that he barely won. But when Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney arrived at the Toronto Congress Centre, speaking notes already prepared, they were told that their services weren’t needed after all.

Instead, the person to precede Mr. Ford was someone most Tories in attendance had never seen or heard of before − but whose name they would soon know well, and whose presence many of them would soon come to fear.

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Dean French watches Doug Ford’s speech at the Ontario PC’s victory party on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, in Etobicoke, Ont.

Chris Donovan/The Globe and Mail

Dean French, an Etobicoke businessman not prominent in Conservative circles since working on Stockwell Day’s national campaign nearly two decades earlier, was Mr. Ford’s campaign chair. The day after the PCs won power in June, Mr. Ford named him his chief of staff.

Since then, he has emerged as something even that job title can’t fully capture: an omnipresent force seen by some of the new government’s members as more powerful than the Premier who employs him.

The manner in which Mr. French wields his power entered public view this week, when The Globe and Mail reported that he forced the firing of Alykhan Velshi, who was chief of staff to former PC leader Patrick Brown, from a job at the energy utility Ontario Power Generation. His intervention left some Tories privately shaking their heads, because they see it as an impulsive move that will lead to a large, politically unhelpful severance payment.

While offering limited defence of that incident, Mr. French’s allies present it as isolated. In an interview this week, Chris Froggatt − a lobbyist and long-time friend of Mr. French who headed Mr. Ford’s transition team as the PCs formed government − credited Mr. French for bringing together Tories from all camps after the leadership race. He also credited him for adopting an aggressive management approach consistent with Mr. Ford’s desire to run government like a business. John Capobianco, another PC lobbyist who has long known Mr. French, suggested he mostly acts out of loyalty to Mr. Ford. (Mr. French did not reply to interview requests.)

But most of nearly 20 PC insiders interviewed − a range of caucus members and staffers and campaign veterans, almost all of whom were willing to speak only on a not-for-attribution basis − suggested that what happened with Mr. Velshi only scratched the surface of how Mr. French is asserting his will.

The way they describe him casts surprising light on the personality of this new government. Mr. Ford is described by provincial caucus members and staff as pleasant, respectful and, by some accounts, almost passive behind the scenes. Meanwhile, Mr. French is portrayed by insiders almost precisely as Mr. Ford’s critics perceive the new Premier to be: mercurial, bent on settling scores and indifferent to boundaries that his job usually involves.

Most chiefs of staff keep relatively low profiles and make some show of deferring to elected representatives. Mr. French is an extreme exception, for reasons more consequential than his occasional reprisals of his gig as Mr. Ford’s warm-up act.

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There is the way he conducts himself in dealings away from Queen’s Park, including with other levels of government. Most staffers in their bosses’ presence at such meetings defer to them; Mr. French has been at least as outspoken and aggressive as Mr. Ford when accompanying him to meetings with federal officials, with whom they are sparring.

There is the unusual control that Mr. French appears to exert over his government’s appointments processes. He is said to have a tendency to conduct negotiations for high-profile public positions − in some cases, lucrative arrangements off brand for a populist conservative government − without others being looped in, presenting them to Mr. Ford as done deals. The reported $350,000 salary for Conservative insider Ian Todd to serve as Ontario’s trade representative in Washington was cited by multiple sources as an example.

But the most polarizing aspect of Mr. French’s approach to his job is the way he throws his weight around with other Tories at Queen’s Park − encouraging fealty and discouraging independent thought in ways that are unusual even by the hyper-disciplined standards of Canadian parliamentary democracy.

In proceedings where political staff usually aren’t welcome to participate, he has taken a lead role. That includes actively engaging in cabinet meetings, as well as the smaller committee of senior ministers who are supposed to set the government’s agenda. He also sits at the front of caucus meetings, rather than along the side where staff usually sit quietly, if they attend at all. And he uses those positions to clamp down on any semblance of dissent.

Earlier this fall, former federal MP Paul Calandra − now a provincial backbencher − stood up in caucus to complain that MPPs had not been looped in before the government rolled out its cannabis policy (which Mr. French spearheaded internally). That level of criticism is not unusual at caucus meetings of most governments, including the Stephen Harper-led one that Mr. Calandra served in, and can be an important component of representing constituents. But according to multiple people who were in the room, after Mr. Ford responded politely, Mr. French furiously tore into Mr. Calandra for not being a team player. The result was a lengthy screaming match between the chief of staff and the MPP that served as a message to others in the room that they’re best to keep their heads down.

Mr. French’s behaviour with PC aides has been similar. At a meeting with ministers’ chiefs of staff, he asked whether they thought their directors of communications were performing well; when they answered yes, he berated them for being wrong. He then attended a meeting of communications directors where he assailed their collective competence, and singled out individual ones to the extent that in at least one case they were reduced to tears. The main cause of his anger, according to multiple sources, was that they were not doing enough to amplify Mr. Ford’s messaging on social media, through mechanisms like retweets and hashtags.

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Accounts abound of similar one-on-one confrontations about perceived disloyalty, with threats of firings or demotions. MPPs are under the impression that Mr. French − a physically imposing man who speaks in sports metaphors, many about the importance of being a team − is closely monitoring their public behaviour for signs of insufficient enthusiasm. That may help explain caucus recently delivering so many standing ovations in Question Period that the Speaker of the legislature asked it to stop.

To date, push-back against such treatment has been minimal. Most members of Mr. Ford’s cabinet are happy to be there after years as opposition MPPs; most backbenchers are new to elected office. Few are inclined to risk going to Mr. Ford, particularly when Mr. French is perceived to closely guard access to him, and many consider sidling up to Mr. French as their best chance at longevity or promotion.

But the controversy with Mr. Velshi and various surprising personnel moves attributed to Mr. French (such as the unexplained firing of John Sinclair, the popular head of PC caucus services), has recently raised the level of chatter about whether the current situation is sustainable.

How Mr. Ford will react, if and when other Tories come to him with their concerns, is very unclear.

A view common among many of Mr. French’s detractors is that Mr. Ford would be upset to know how Mr. French is treating people, ostensibly on his behalf. But some of the interactions have happened right in front of him.

What they may be underestimating is the extent to which Mr. Ford sees in Mr. French a kindred spirit, and someone who has his back.

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Although not much involved in broader party politics after his stint as a campaign official for Mr. Day’s Canadian Alliance, Mr. French remained a fixture in local politics in Etobicoke − where he moved as a young man after growing up in the Peterborough area – launched his insurance business and raised his family. That put him in the Ford family’s backyard, and he has been a reliable ally since as far back as 1995, when he helped Doug Ford Sr. successfully run for a provincial seat. Later, he worked on Rob Ford’s mayoral victory and helped organize the subsequent Harmony Dinner to erase the debt of some municipal candidates.

Mr. French was among the first people to hop aboard Doug Ford Jr.’s leadership campaign last winter. And over the course of that campaign and especially the general election, he was almost always by Mr. Ford’s side. That allowed the two men, who are both in their early 50s and share a love of sports and other interests, to strengthen their friendship.

In a government filled with political professionals who did not support Mr. Ford in the leadership contest, Mr. French stands out as someone whose established loyalty is first and foremost to the Premier, not the party or any other institution. Mr. Ford, known for his skepticism toward political and bureaucratic “elites,” may also see Mr. French’s disregard for institutional norms as a virtue. And as Mr. Froggatt suggested, Mr. Ford may look at his government’s early record – including pushing through an end to the province’s carbon pricing system, a shrinking of Toronto’s city council and an overhaul of cannabis legalization – and see Mr. French’s heavy-handedness paying off.

Even an odd one of Mr. French’s internal critics concedes some appreciation for the pace at which this government can move, when consensus is essentially forced on it rather than slowly ironed out at the cabinet table.

But from all those critics − senior staff around government, MPPs, people who worked on Mr. Ford’s campaign and express affection for him and belief in his government’s overall agenda − there are warnings about the path they are on, if Mr. French’s management style continues.

Morale, they say, is already dangerously low. The Tories are at risk of losing good staffers much earlier than most governments do. Aides and caucus members who bite their tongues while their party is still relatively strong in the polls could turn on their leader when the going gets tougher.

And that tough going could come sooner than it should, if there are more stories like the one with Mr. Velshi. A Premier and chief of staff both new to government and unfamiliar with usual boundaries could stumble onto all sorts of ethical landmines, if others with more legislative or governmental experience are afraid to speak up.

Such talk will not be audible as PCs gather this weekend for their first convention since winning government.

As Mr. French maintains his usual high profile, Queen’s Park denizens will be careful to publicly show requisite enthusiasm, lest they be called onto the carpet. But the whispers of confusion, when he took the microphone at the same venue last March for the unity rally, will likely be replaced by ones that are more knowing.

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Third incident reported at Toronto private school

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People leave St. Michael’s College School following a parent information meeting relating to an alleged sexual assault involving students in Toronto on Nov. 16, 2018.

Tijana Martin

Eight students have been expelled from St. Michael’s College School over two videos, one showing an alleged sexual assault, as the elite Toronto academy revealed that it is examining a third incident.

Police are investigating multiple occurrences of “alleged assaultive and sexually assaultive behaviour” involving St. Michael’s College School students. “At this stage, police believe there may be other victims and witnesses and are encouraging anyone who has not yet spoken to investigators to come forward by calling the Child and Youth Advocacy Centre,” the police service said in a news release Friday.

The school released its timeline of events on Friday, which detailed three separate incidents coming to their attention over the past five days. It was the first official confirmation of a “third incident.” The Globe and Mail spoke with a parent who said her child viewed the alleged third video in a Snapchat group of approximately 35 to 40 people on Wednesday night, allegedly depicting a boy performing a sex act on another boy in front of a group of others. She said her child, who does not attend the school, e-mailed administrators from St. Michael’s, believing the video to involve its students.

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The new video was allegedly viewed in the same Snapchat group as the graphic sexual-assault video that’s been under investigation by Toronto Police since midweek. Two police sources who spoke with The Canadian Press say that the sexual-assault video being investigated since Wednesday allegedly involves a St. Michael’s football team, in which a group of boys allegedly held down another student and sexually assaulted him with an object. The school said Friday that the video took place in a locker room.

By the school’s own account, it learned about the locker-room video on Monday evening. Earlier that same day, the school had contacted police about a separate videotaped incident, where the two police sources who spoke with The Canadian Press say members of the basketball team allegedly bullied a student and soaked him with water. The school said that incident took place in a washroom. “Advice was provided to the school, and no further action was taken or received,” Constable Caroline de Kloet said.

An internal school investigation was launched into the boys’ washroom incident, and on Tuesday, four students were expelled because of that probe. Also Tuesday, the school interviewed students identified as allegedly being involved with the locker-room video. Faculty and staff were informed Tuesday about both incidents. On Wednesday, four other students were expelled for the locker-room video, plus one suspended in connection to the washroom incident. Police also learned about the locker-room video on Wednesday, but Constable de Kloet told The Globe and Mail that they learned about it through media inquiries.

The timeline released by the school doesn’t specifically answer why administrators didn’t inform police right away about the locker-room video, which police have said meets the definition of child pornography. “There have been many questions about our handling of the matter and the sequence of events leading to the expulsion of eight students and one suspension,” the school wrote. “The priority for the last three days has been on the victims, students, and our staff and faculty.”

Several meetings have been held at the school, including two with parents on Friday. Administrators and coaches met with the junior football team Thursday. A Facebook post on the school’s page from last week boasted about their junior football team’s championship victory in the independent school conference. The school has said that the season is now cancelled.

“As school administrators and educators, we bear a heavy responsibility to help guide our students through a challenging period in their lives – when external forces are often in conflict with the notion of doing the right thing,” the school wrote Friday, “and these incidents were a stark reminder that we have more work to do.”

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