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Mustard will keep watch for kids

Toronto Star - October 11, 1999
by Ian Urquhart

{The first part of this story is about education and has been clipped}

After a search that lasted several months, Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty has finally named a new chief of staff - Philip Dewan - to replace Monique Smith, who left after the election.

The appointment has raised eyebrows at Queen's Park.

Dewan has good Liberal credentials: He was director of policy under then premier David Peterson in the late 1980s and his grandfather was minister of agriculture in the Liberal government of 1943.

But for the last nine years, he has been president of the Fair Rental Policy Organization, a landlord lobby group that has campaigned actively against rent controls.

Under Dewan's leadership, the lobby group embraced the Tories' Tenant Protection Act, the Orwellian-named legislation that partially decontrolled rents and allowed condo conversions.

Dewan personally delivered speeches and wrote letters to the editor and op-ed pieces defending the act from attacks by tenant activists.

The McGuinty Liberals, meanwhile, ran in the spring election on a platform of restoring rent controls.

And this fall they have made much noise about the Tenant Protection Act, which they have blamed for helping "greedy landlords" to toss elderly and disabled tenants into the streets.

But Dewan sees no conflict between his old job and his new one.

"It's a different job, a different employer," he told me. "I won't have a problem selling policies the leader has decided on."

Yes, but what are his personal views? "I've never put a personal opinion on the record and I don't think I will now."

Tenant groups are worried, however. They had been encouraged by the Liberals' recent interest in housing issues and were hopeful it would be sustained through the fall. Now they aren't so sure.

"We need this like a hole in the head," said Howard Tessler of the FMTA. "We're not going to have any voice at Queen's Park now."

Maybe. The test will come in the first few question periods when the Legislature resumes sitting next week. Does McGuinty lead off with a question on rent controls?

If he doesn't, he will leave himself open to internal criticism. If he does, the Tories will know where to tell him to look for his answer.

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