The Top Line
Earlier today, Premier Doug Ford opted to hit the re-start – not just reset – button on his government with the largest Cabinet shuffle seen in Ontario for decades. Nine days away from the one-year anniversary of Ford’s first Cabinet swearing in, the Premier has made a dramatic 20 changes to the Cabinet. The Cabinet has been expanded to 28 from 21 Ministers. The changes appear to be centered on one theme – communications. Those who have managed their portfolios with a steady hand and delivered their messages clearly, are safe. Cabinet Ministers who were perceived to be weaker communicators moved to less prominent portfolios, including senior Ministers Vic Fedeli, Lisa MacLeod and Lisa Thompson.
Plagued by a year of plummeting popularity, a reset in Cabinet was intended to ensure that the portfolios which have faced recent controversies are led by Ministers who are better communicators and have demonstrated strong leadership on their previous files.
The change to a new Minister of Finance is the most notable. No such change in federal or Ontario politics in recent times – after just one budget – comes to mind indicating that the Premier is really doing a “re-start” and not just a reset. The Premier clearly was not happy with the rollout and reception to the first major milestone of his government. By replacing the well-liked veteran Vic Fedeli with the younger and media-savvy Rod Phillips, the government is putting a new face on its ongoing battle to bring Ontario’s budget deficit under control.
Ford has added seven new faces to the Cabinet Table among the 20 changes across the Government Ministry.
- Christine Elliott remains at Health and remains as Deputy Premier – Long-term care is split off as a new ministry.
- Michael Tibollo becomes the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, recently serving as the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
- Merrilee Fullerton will serve as the Minister of Long-Term Care, moved from Training, Colleges and Universities.
- Rod Phillips becomes the Minister of Finance, previously serving as the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
- Vic Fedeli will now be the Minister Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade and Chair of Cabinet, moved from Finance.
- Jeff Yurek becomes the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, previously serving as the Minister of Transportation.
- Todd Smith will serve as the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, previously serving as the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.
- Monte McNaughton becomes the Minster of Labour moved from Infrastructure.
- Caroline Mulroney is now the Minister of Transportation and retains Minister of Francophone Affairs, she previously served as the Attorney General.
- Laurie Scott becomes the Minister the Infrastructure, previously serving as the Minister of Labour.
- Lisa MacLeod becomes Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, previously serving as Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
- Lisa Thompson is moved to the Minister of Government and Consumer Services, previously serving as the Minister of Education.
- Bill Walker becomes the Associate Minister of Energy, previously serving at the Minister of Government and Consumer Services.
- Doug Downey is promoted to Cabinet as the Attorney General.
- Stephen Lecce is promoted to Cabinet as the Minister of Education.
- Ross Romano is promoted to Cabinet as the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.
- Prabmeet Sarkaria is promoted to Cabinet as the Associate Minister of Small Businesses and for Red Tape Reduction.
- Jill Dunlop is promoted to Cabinet as the Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues.
- Kinga Surma is promoted to Cabinet as the Associate Minister of Transportation.
- Paul Calandra is promoted to Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio and Government House Leader.
Doug Downey – first elected in the 2018 General Election in the riding of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, Downey is now the new Attorney General. Downey has been viewed a rising star within the PC Caucus and was named Parliamentary Assistant to Finance Minister shortly after the government was sworn in. Subsequently he was appointed to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs in July 2018, Vice-Chair of the Select Committee on Financial Transparency in October 2018, and Deputy Government Whip on November 5, 2018. Downey has demonstrated to have the full confidence of the Premier and will have high expectations during his tenure as the Attorney General. Downey, a long-time PC Party member, has proven communications skills having hosted his own cable television show for several years. These skills will be useful as he takes on the challenges within his new portfolio.
Stephen Lecce – became an MPP in 2018, serving the riding of King-Vaughan. Lecce is now the Minister of Education. A former senior communications advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Lecce has been one of the Government’s strongest communicators. Previous to his appointment to Cabinet, Lecce served as the Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Infrastructure, and the Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier.
Ross Romano – became an MPP in a by-election in June 2017, is now the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. Previous to his by-election win he served as a Councillor in Sault Ste. Marie. With Romano at the Cabinet table the representation of Northern Ontario has increased.
Paul Calandra – is now the Government House Leader. A former Federal MP, he was elected as an MPP in the 2018 Election in the riding of Markham-Stouffville. Previous to entering Cabinet, Calandra served as the as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines (Energy). His extensive parliamentary career will support his work as the new Government House Leader.
Jill Dunlop – was elected in 2018 in the riding of Simcoe North. She is the daughter of former MPP Garfield Dunlop. She will now serve as the Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues. Prior to entering politics, Dunlop held a career as a faculty member at Georgian College.
Prabmeet Sarkaria – elected in the riding of Brampton South in the 2018 Election, has become the Associate Minister of Small Businesses and for Red Tape Reduction. Previously, Sarkaria served as the Chair of the Select Committee on Financial Transparency as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Sarkaria worked as a corporate and commercial Associate at Miller Thomson LLP prior to being elected. He has a law degree from the University of Windsor as well as a Bachelor of Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University where he majored in Finance. Prior to going into law, he worked at TD Securities.
Kinga Surma – became the MPP for Etobicoke Centre in 2018, a former municipal candidate, she was made Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transportation. Surma will serve as the Associate Minister of Transportation (GTA). She is now only the third seat for Toronto at the Cabinet table.
What This Means
The shuffle is clearly a “restart’ for this government as it involves more than half the Cabinet changing portfolios and responsibilities. Of note, Premier Ford did not drop anyone from the Cabinet, but instead added seven new faces, mainly by dividing some of the larger Ministries into parts and adding Ministers. For example, Health has been split into three ministries while five ministries have been propped up by adding Associate, or Junior Ministers to the portfolios.
The Cabinet has grown in size now to 28 members, up from 21. This is an admission by the Premier that the initial Ministry simply wasn’t large enough to execute the mandate of the Government which has led to numerous messaging follies. By splitting ministries and adding Associate Ministers to the government, Premier Ford is propping up the tough portfolios with additional resources to refocus the Government and improve communications.
Communications clearly was at the center of this massive shuffle. Those that struggled with their messaging have been moved to lesser portfolios while the top communicators have taken over the top portfolios. Rod Phillips as Finance Minister, is being recognized for his strong handling of the environment file. Vic Fedeli, while being moved out of Finance, takes on Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, a portfolio that will allow him to focus on being the province’s top economic and investment marketer which better aligns with his professional background.
Lisa McLeod, who struggled at times with the enormous Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, moves to Tourism, Culture and Sport, a strong indication of the Premier’s disappointment in her handling of the autism file.
Todd Smith now takes over the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. Minister Smith has been a steady hand in government messaging and moves to calm the waters on the autism file.
Stephen Lecce, the rookie MPP for King-Vaughan, is one of the big winners, joining Cabinet as Minister of Education. This places a strong spokesperson for the Government in a challenging portfolio.
The other rising member of Caucus is Doug Downey representing Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte. Doug takes on the Attorney General role after serving as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance. Doug’s strong legal background will be tested in the current changing environment including the phase-in of cannabis legalization.
Finally of note, the Premier has elevated Kinga Surma (Etobicoke Centre) to Associate Minister of Transportation. A former staff member at Toronto City Hall and a strong advocate for subways, this should allow for a more direct and smoother relationship with the City of Toronto on the TTC uploading.
The new ministers will now have four months to master their roles and prepare for the return of the Legislature on October 28, 2019.
The first item on each Minister’s agenda will be to meet with the Deputy Ministers and receive briefings on the major issues and initiatives they will now oversee. Over the extended summer break from the Legislature, the Ministers will have a significant amount of time to absorb the issues in their new portfolios and begin to determine next steps for the Government as they enter into the second year of a four-year mandate.
Ministers will also have to assess their staff composition and potentially make changes. New Ministers will require new staff and this will happen over the next few weeks. Stakeholders should keep an eye out on changes in Chiefs of Staff and other Senior Advisors.
With a number of promotions to Cabinet, a shuffle in Parliamentary Assistants will also be required, this is expected to happen quickly, in the coming days.
TSA will continue to provide updates on significant internal changes as they occur.