The Top Line: Ford’s Government
Earlier today, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, officiated at the swearing-in ceremony of the Executive Council of the 42nd Parliament of Ontario.
The Progressive Conservative Party was elected on June 7, 2018 with a majority government. Today’s cabinet represents a reduction in terms of both actual Cabinet members and Ministries.
Premier Ford selected the 21-person cabinet from a pool of 76 MPPs. The new Cabinet includes 14 men and 7 women. 13 current MPPs were promoted to Cabinet positions while 7 members of Cabinet are newly elected. Christine Elliott MPP has been re-elected and in addition to Ministerial responsibilities will serve as Deputy Premier. Former Interim Leader Vic Fedeli MPP will serve as Chair of Cabinet.
Premier Ford has balanced his cabinet regionally with 5 members from each of southwestern Ontario, eastern Ontario and the GTA. 4 members are from central Ontario and 2 are from the north. However, the large urban centres of Hamilton, Brampton and Mississauga have no direct representation.
In achieving the majority mandate from the people of Ontario, Premier Ford has committed to running a more economically frugal government. He has often said that “the party with the taxpayer’s money is over” and he campaigned on the slogan “for the people.”
“I will never forget why I’m here: to work for the people of Ontario,” Ford said in a statement. “I promised the people that I would help make our great province the best place in North America when it comes to business, creating jobs and raising a family. And I am going to keep my promise.”
Specifically, Ford ran on five themes and has let it be known that these will be the focus of his new government. It is unlikely that any policy initiatives that do not support these themes will be considered, at least in the first 6 months.
The five themes can be categorized as follows:
One: Put money back into the taxpayer’s pocket. Premier Ford has already announced that he will eliminate the Cap & Trade carbon tax scheme which will assist in his campaign promise of reducing the price of gasoline at the pumps by 10 cents a litre – providing a very visible tax relief to most Ontarians.
However, this tax relief does not come without costs that include the loss of about $2.5 billion in annual revenue and the subsequent green energy rebates that the tax funded. Ford has previously announced the cancellation of the green energy rebates. Another challenge with this change will come from those who bought future carbon credits to offset their use and be compliant.
Two: Clean up Hydro One. Premier Ford has committed to lowering Hydro rates by 12% and he has announced that he will fire the “Six million dollar Man” and the Board of Hydro One. The current CEO, Mayo Schmidt, is the highest paid Hydro executive in Canada.
It is unclear at this time what methods the Premier and his Cabinet will use to make the changes.
Three: “Ontario is Open for Business” was Ford’s rallying cry throughout the campaign and it will be one he will continue to push in the first 100 days. Job creation and a personal guarantee by Ford that no jobs will be lost, formed the basis of this commitment. While this effort will be less contentious than energy and finance, it will top the agenda on a regular basis.
It is possible that Premier Ford may emerge as a key player in the current trade dispute with the United States as he has pledged his support in this area to the federal government.
Four: Restore accountability to government spending – Ford has built his reputation on weeding out government waste and worked with his late brother in the City of Toronto to do so. While the amount of savings he achieved is up for debate, there was certainly a culture change in the process and Ontarians should look for that culture change to take place here. MPP perks will be eliminated and public servants will be put on notice that careless spending will not be tolerated.
Five: Improve health care delivery. With nearly half the provincial budget being spent in the health care sector, Ford has vowed to improve service and eliminate “hallway health care”. He has enlisted Dr. Reuben Devlin, former President & CEO, Humber River Hospital and the man credited with creating Ontario’s first “digital hospital”. Look for Dr. Devlin to be a key player in health policy.
A Ford government has also stated publicly that they will reach out to health care professionals, especially doctors and the OMA, in a conciliar fashion to restore a fractured relationship and improve the system.
Finally, look for new and focused initiatives in the area of mental health. A commitment made by Ford on the campaign trail, it is likely to be a specialized focus of this government.
Executive Council for the 42 Parliament of Ontario
- Hon. Doug Ford – Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
- Hon. Christine Elliott – Minister of Health and Long-Term Care & Deputy Premier
- Hon. Victor Fedeli – Minister of Finance and Chair of Cabinet
- Hon. Jim Wilson – Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
- Hon. Ernie Hardeman – Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
- Hon. John Yakabuski – Minister of Transportation
- Hon. Laurie Scott – Minister of Labour
- Hon. Lisa MacLeod – Minister of Children, Community and Social Services and Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues
- Hon. Sylvia Jones – Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport
- Hon. Steve Clark – Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
- Hon. Todd Smith – Minister of Government and Consumer Services, and Government House Leader
- Hon. Lisa Thompson – Minister of Education
- Hon. Monte McNaughton – Minister of Infrastructure
- Hon. Jeff Yurek – Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
- Hon. Raymond Cho – Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
- Hon. Caroline Mulroney – Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs
- Hon. Greg Rickford – Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs
- Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy – President of the Treasury Board
- Hon. Rod Phillips – Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
- Hon. Merrilee Fullerton – Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities
- Hon. Michael Tibollo – Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Based on the themes outlined by the Progressive Conservatives during the recent election campaign, look for the following to be the key players in the early days of the new government.
Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario – Will have full control and will constantly remind Ontarians that the government is there “for the people”. He will focus on eliminating government waste, building efficiencies, reducing taxes and putting more money in taxpayer pockets.
Hon. Vic Fedeli, Minister of Finance and Chair of Cabinet – With a record of decisive action, Vic Fedeli will be moving very quickly to cut government spending by at least 4%, eliminate programs deemed to be unnecessary and expensive, identify tax loopholes and cut taxes. In choosing Fedeli as his Finance Minister, Premier Ford is sending a message that he intends to deliver his campaign promises and do so as quickly as he can.
Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and Deputy Premier – Returning to the legislature after a 3 year absence, Christine Elliott brings a powerful voice to the extremely large Ministry of Health. A long-term advocate for mental health, Elliott also recently served as Ontario’s Ombudsman for health issues. The Premier’s advisor, Dr. Reuben Devlin, will work closely here with Elliott to develop new modern systems across the province by employing modern digital systems and eliminating “hallway healthcare”.
Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board – Bethlenfalvy is tasked to find a minimum of 4% in savings in the government, tighten the fiscal belt and eliminate unnecessary and expensive initiatives within government. Also look for an elimination of MPP perks and expensive programs.
Hon. Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs – With experience in the federal Ministry, Rickford is likely to be the highest profile Minister in the first six months as he will be locked into a battle with the Prime Minister and the federal government. Look for the elimination of the Cap and Trade Carbon Tax scheme to dominate the fall session of the government.
Hon. Jim Wilson, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade – An important initiative to once again make “Ontario open for business”. Jim Wilson, a parliamentary veteran, will initially work closely with the Premier to partner with the federal government to achieve a trade settlement with the United States.
Hon. Monte McNaughton, Minister of Infrastructure – Likely with a focus on Toronto, McNaughton will work to build infrastructure and get Ontario moving again. The Premier has pledged more subways for the GTHA and there will be pressure to get major projects underway quickly.