Ontario Cabinet Shuffle

The Top Line

Earlier today, Premier Ford shuffled his Cabinet, maintaining a strong base, rewarding a number of hard-working younger caucus members and dropping 5 seasoned veterans.

The core of the Cabinet remains the same with many of the familiar members maintaining their portfolios. This includes high-profile Ministers such as:

  • Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
  • Steven Lecce, Minister of Education
  • Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General
  • Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance
  • Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
  • Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
  • Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development
  • Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation
  • Paul Calandra, Government House Leader

The focus on every shuffle of this size are the new additions and changes within portfolios that occur and there is no shortage of these here today.

The most obvious addition is the return of Rod Phillips to Cabinet in the long-term care portfolio. The Ajax MPP returns after serving 6 months outside Cabinet for an ill-timed vacation in December during the height of the pandemic. Phillips, who is well liked by the Premier will now try and bring some stability to the long-term care file, a position that has had a difficult time during the pandemic period. Phillips will need to restore stability in order to help the governing party move forward towards the next election.

Portfolios

Greg Rickford adds the Ministry of Natural Resources to his portfolio while giving up energy. Given his riding in north-western Ontario, this is a natural fit and will be seen as placing a strong minister in an important file. Rickford also keeps Indigenous Affairs while Todd Smith takes over Energy.

Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria becomes President of Treasury Board. This rewards one of the young stars in caucus with a major promotion. Well-liked and admired for his communication skills, he will have the challenge of regaining control of government spending. This also brings a Brampton MPP into the inner ranks of the government, a tough battleground for Conservatives where the NDP hold 3 seats.

Ross Romano moves from Colleges and Universities to become the Minister of Government and Consumer Services – the government’s procurement arm. This strengthens the northern Ontario position in Cabinet with another senior role. Romano will also have responsibility of modernizing government systems utilizing the newly formed Supply Ontario.

Kinga Surma, representing a challenging riding in Etobicoke Centre takes over Infrastructure, greatly raising her profile and rewarding her efforts as an Associate Minister in Transportation.

Lisa Thompson takes over in Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs replacing veteran Ernie Hardeman. A farmer by profession, she will offer a new viewpoint to this diverse Ministry.

Merrilee Fullerton leaves the long-term care file with battle scars and takes over Children, Community and Social Services. Another challenging portfolio, Fullerton’s medical background should prove to be an asset in dealing with many of the complex issues in this file. She replaces Todd Smith, generally regarded as a strong Minister who stabilized this Ministry since taking over after the last major shuffle.

The popular Jill Dunlop from Barrie is rewarded with a full Ministry, taking over as Minister of Colleges and Universities.

David Piccini, a proven communicator has been on the media circuit during COVID-19 defending the government and has proven himself. He has been rewarded as the new Minister of the Environment, Conversation and Parks.

Parm Gill, from Milton, another proven performer, moves into the newly created Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism and adds another prominent member to Cabinet from the GTHA.

The other major changes in this shuffle are the demotion of 5 veteran Ministers, moved completely out of Cabinet:

  • Laurie Scott, a popular member from Haliburton who wasn’t afraid to voice an opinion on the government’s Covid restrictions.
  • John Yakabuski, regarded as a weak Minister allowing the public service to rule his decisions.
  • Bill Walker and Jeff Yurek who never were able to grasp their portfolios.
  • Ernie Hardeman, now nearing 75 and first elected in 1995 was also dropped.

What This Means to You

Today’s Cabinet Shuffle has brought significant change to the Ford Government, providing a new face as the next election looms in just over 11 months. The shuffle clearly changes the look of the Executive Council with a focus on increased diversity and regional representation. It also strengthens the position of GTHA with additional members in Cabinet.

The government managed the pandemic well in the early stages but has come under fire in recent months for indecision and poor communications. This large change of duties will, by design, bring new faces to the forefront and provide a fresh approach to a government regarded as being out of ideas, especially in the handling of the pandemic.

The new Ministers have been given more responsibility resulting in a younger Cabinet, more diverse and with additional women in senior roles. The shuffle also adds more importance to urban centres, and media centres, and drops some of the old guard, all representing primarily rural ridings. The combination of the new faces and the established base of Ministers in the major portfolios is a clear signal from the government that they believe they are best placed to govern the province.

Dropping the 5 veteran Ministers is a bit of a surprise as none of them was controversial in the public eye. However, some were known to be outspoken on the government’s one-size fits all plan for the province-wide restrictions to counter the pandemic. It’s also not a coincidence that they all come from safe Conservative rural seats. Time will tell if the voters agree or send the government a message in the next election.

The opposition will likely attack the shuffle as being so large because of the previous incompetence and the need for change is a desperate move to hang on to power. Look for them to attack Rod Phillips in long-term care and for his previous errors in judgement.

With an election a little over 11 months from now, Premier Ford, and his election team, are clearly counting on this to be the team to lead the way to a second majority government. The fallout from dropping the 5 experienced hands and a review of how the newcomers perform will go a long way to achieving that goal.

Next provincial election is June 2, 2022.

ADDENDUM

New Ministers (Promoted):

  • Parm Gill, MPP for Milton, becomes Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism.
  • Rod Phillips, MPP for Ajax, becomes Minister of Long-Term Care.
  • Dave Piccini, MPP for Northumberland-Peterborough South, becomes Minister of Environment.
  • Kinga Surma, MPP for Etobicoke Centre, becomes Minister of Infrastructure.
  • Stan Cho, MPP for Willowdale, becomes Associate Minister of Transportation, reporting to Minister Mulroney.
  • Jane McKenna, MPP for Burlington, becomes Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, reporting to Minister Fullerton.
  • Nina Tangri, MPP for Mississauga Streetsville, becomes Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape, reporting to Minister Fedeli.
  • Kaleed Rasheed, MPP for Mississauga East-Cooksville, becomes Associate Minister of Digital Government, reporting to Minister Bethlenfalvy.

New Ministers (Shuffled):

  • Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, MPP for Kanata-Carleton, becomes Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
  • Greg Rickford, MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, assumes a merged role as Minister of Northern Development, Mining, Natural Resources and Forestry, as well as Indigenous Affairs. This new northern and economic focused ministry will enhance development potential and sustainability in the North. Energy will transfer to a new separate ministry.
  • Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, becomes Minister of Energy.
  • Ross Romano, MPP for Sault Ste. Marie, becomes Minister of Government and Consumer Services.
  • Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, MPP for Brampton South, becomes President of the Treasury Board.
  • Lisa Thompson, MPP for Huron Bruce, becomes Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
  • Jill Dunlop, MPP for Simcoe North, becomes Minister of Colleges and Universities.

Unchanged Ministers:

  • Doug Ford, MPP for Etobicoke North, Premier.
  • Peter Bethlenfalvy, MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge, Minister of Finance.
  • Paul Calandra, MPP for Markham-Stouffville, Minister Without Portfolio / House Leader.
  • Raymond Sung Joon Cho, MPP for Scarborough North, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.
  • Steve Clark, MPP for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
  • Doug Downey, MPP for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, Attorney General
  • Christine Elliott, MPP for Newmarket—Aurora, Minister of Health / Deputy Premier.
  • Victor Fedeli, MPP for Nipissing, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade / Chair of Cabinet.
  • Sylvia Jones, MPP for Dufferin-Caledon, Solicitor General.
  • Stephen Lecce, MPP for King-Vaughan, Minister of Education.
  • Lisa MacLeod, MPP for Nepean, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.
  • Monte McNaughton, MPP for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
  • Caroline Mulroney, MPP for York-Simcoe, Minister of Francophone Affairs and Minister of Transportation.
  • Michael A. Tibollo, MPP for Vaughan—Woodbridge, Minister Without Portfolio.

Demoted:

  • Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, Former Minister of Infrastructure.
  • Bill Walker, MPP for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, Former Minister Without Portfolio.
  • John Yakabuski, MPP for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
  • Jeff Yurek, MPP for Elgin—Middlesex—London, Former Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
  • Ernie Hardeman, MPP for Oxford, Former Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
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