Top Line – Pre-Election Cabinet Reset
Today, five months prior to the 2018 General Election, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a shuffle of her Cabinet. The decision was necessitated by the fact that several veteran Liberals Ministers have chosen not to seek re-election. The shuffle was also intended to ensure that the Government has strong communicators on key policy topics, such as Education and Economic Development, as the election nears.
After today’s appointments, there are 29 Ministers in Cabinet, including nine people serving in new roles. The most notable portfolio changes include:
Steven Del Duca (Vaughan) was appointed as Minister of Economic Development and Growth. Minister Del Duca will be expected to oversee continued strength in Ontario’s economic fundamentals, which have been amongst the strongest in the G7 recently, and help pitch that economic messaging to voters in the leadup to the election;
Nathalie Des Rosiers (Ottawa Vanier) was newly appointed to Cabinet as Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry;
Mitizie Hunter (Scarborough-Guildwood) was appointed as Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development. Minister Hunter was first brought into Cabinet to lead the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan and then became Minister of Education. She has been a fast riser in Cabinet and now finds herself responsible for the Government’s messaging on expanding free tuition to more students and reducing post-secondary education costs; and,
Indira Naidoo-Harris (Halton) was appointed as Minister of Education and will also continue in the role of Minister Responsible for Early Years and Child Care – two topics which often have high profiles during elections.
Ministers who were dropped from Cabinet and will not be seeking re-election are:
Brad Duguid (Scarborough-Centre), the outgoing Minister of Economic Development and Growth;
Deb Matthews (London North Centre), the outgoing Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, and Deputy Premier; and,
Liz Sandals (Guelph), the outgoing President of the Treasury Board.
The addition of three women to Cabinet changes the gender balance to 13 women (including the Premier) and 16 men. Dr. Helena Jaczek, Minister of Community and Social Services, will assume the role of Chair of Cabinet.
Notably, most key Ministries were not affected by the shuffle. For example, Finance Minister Charles Sousa (Mississauga South), Health Minister Eric Hoskins (St. Paul’s), and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury) all kept their portfolios. Minister Sousa will remain in the key Finance post heading into Election 2018, during which the Liberals will tout his balancing of the Provincial budget, and Minister Thibeault will stay on as point person for the challenging Energy file, including the rollout of a 25% hydro rebate. Labour Minister Kevin Flynn also kept his current post, in which he is overseeing increases of the minimum wage and changes to labour standards, which have been a recent high-priority for the Government.
All New Ministerial Roles
Steven Del Duca (Vaughan) becomes Minister of Economic Development and Growth, formerly Minister of Transportation;
Nathalie Des Rosiers (Ottawa-Vanier) becomes Minister of Natural Resources, new to Cabinet;
Mitzie Hunter (Scarborough-Guildwood) becomes Minister of Advanced Education and Skill Development, formerly Minister of Education;
Helena Jaczek, Minister of Community and Social Services, will take on the responsibilities of Chair of Cabinet;
Harinder Malhi (Brampton-Springdale) becomes Minister of the Status of Women, new to Cabinet;
Kathryn McGarry (Cambridge) becomes Minister of Transport, formerly Minister of Natural Resources;
Eleanor McMahon (Burlington) becomes President of the Treasury Board and Minister Responsible for the Digital Government, formerly Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport;
Indira Naidoo-Harris (Halton) becomes Minister of Education, and continues as Minister Responsible for Early Years and Child Care; and,
Daiene Vernile (Kitchen Centre) becomes Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, new to Cabinet.
What Comes Next
The Ministers with new portfolios are expected to meet immediately with their staff and senior public service officials. Before the Legislative Assembly returns on February 20th, those Ministers will need to quickly familiarize themselves with their new files and issues, and prepare for next steps leading into the next election.
The Cabinet Shuffle will trigger a shuffle of Parliamentary Assistants and membership on Cabinet Committees. Expect those developments to be announced prior to the Legislature’s return in late February. Furthermore, some political staff will be moved, though, in light of the nearing election, many political staff will likely remain in their current roles.