Former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion now says she's too busy to work as a special housing consultant for Premier Doug Ford.
Hours after Ford assured reporters that McCallion – who received the $ 150,000 per year sponsorship charge Jan. 18 – would work for free, the 97-year-old executive said she was accepting.
"Unfortunately, due to my extensive commitments, I can not accommodate the time required for this consultation at this time," she said on Wednesday.
"As a result, I will not accept the formal commitment and the per diem that comes along with it."
McCallion, who chaired Mississauga from 1978 to 2014, added that she is a "phone call away" if Ford needs any advice.
In a statement, the premier said that "it is a sign of her true character that she was not comfortable accepting this commitment given the time and energy she would have required."
But earlier in the day, Ford had said "it's going to be a great asset at no cost."
"I saw her over the weekend – dude, what a dynamo. She said, "Doug, I sit on eight boards. I'll help you in any way I can, but I will not get a salary," he said, marveling at McCallion turning 98 on February 14.
Progressive conservatives who govern received much warmth from their political opponents and radio programs for hiring McCallion as a high-priced housing counselor in the Toronto and Hamilton metropolitan areas.
However, in another job post that was chasing the government, Ford declined to say whether he would be compelled by the recommendation of the integrity commission J. David Wake, who is investigating the hiring of the Toronto police on Nov. 22. Ron Taverner as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.
The appointment of Taverner, 72, a long-time friend of the prime minister's family, remains in limbo while Wake investigates a NDP complaint from the opposition that there was political interference in unusual hiring.
Asked if he would obey the findings of the commissioner of integrity, if Wake concluded that there was political interference, Ford did not respond directly.
"The commissioner of integrity will go through this. I have a lot of respect for him. I'll be sitting and listening to what he has to say … I think he's doing a great job, by the way, "he said.
Ford rejected concerns over Taverner's appointment by police and critical officials who fear that having the premier's friend as chief of the OPP would undermine the independence of the country's second-largest police force.
"I travel through the province. The only people who talk about it are the media, "said the prime minister.
NDP MPP Sandy Shaw (Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas) has contested that people are worried because "it is clear that Doug Ford is planning to become untouchable by any police force that can investigate an abuse of power."
"Without a truly independent OPP commissioner, the Ontarians simply have no recourse," Shaw said, adding that only the government of the day could call the Mounties to investigate a transgression if the OPP were to be considered as having a conflict.
"We can not rely on a close ally of Ford to investigate his government and we certainly can not rely on his government to invite the RCMP to carry out any future investigation."
In his first press conference since Dec. 18, the prime minister also said that "it's no sweat for anyone" that beer – which he promised during last spring's election campaign and announced in August – is fading.
The only $ 1-per-bottle participant, Etobicoke's Cool Beer Brewing, is reducing its cheap foam promotion for long weekends for the rest of the year, as the Toronto Star reported on Tuesday.
Two other breweries made short promotions after the government reduced the minimum price of beer to $ 1 for a standard bottle or beer can which is below 5.6% alcohol by volume.
"Beer was a challenge. We got rid of a regulation, some companies accepted us, "added Ford, who pointed out that he himself does not drink.
Rob Ferguson is a Toronto reporter who covers Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: robferguson1
Robert Benzie is the head of the branch of Star's Queen's Park and a reporter who covers the politics of Ontario. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie