Ontario Ministerial mandate letters: Why they’re important

Ontario Government Releases Ministerial Mandate Letters

Premier Kathleen Wynne has provided directions to her Ministers.  Yesterday, Ministers were provided with their mandate letters, outlining the government’s overall priorities as well as detailed priorities for each ministry.  Mandate letters are a tool used by some Premiers to provide explicit direction to Ministers.  Yesterday’s letters are unique in two ways: (i) they are the result of negotiations between the Premier and each Minister, and (ii) they were released to the public.

The published mandate letters are a new and important window into the priorities of the Wynne government because they clarify government intentions beyond the level of campaign or Throne Speech commitments.  In a recent media interview, the Premier noted that not every project the government implements will be captured in these mandate letters, however observers should expect government efforts will be focussed on achieving these goals.  Stakeholders can strengthen their proposals if they align them with the themes and priorities contained in these letters.

The Treasury Board Agenda: at the heart of the mandate

Premier Wynne has made it clear that Treasury Board, led by Deb Matthews, will work “to ensure our government meets its fiscal targets.”  The importance of this secretariat cannot be understated.  Deb Matthews, the Premier’s closest political ally, will be driven to deliver on this critical mandate.

All eyes will be watching to see how successful the government will be in delivering on some ambitious policy goals and, at the same time, meeting the looming 2017-18 deadline for balancing the budget.

As outlined in its mandate letter, Treasury Board’s assignment includes:

  • Conducting an ongoing review of Information and Information Technology to modernize service delivery and products across all ministries. This includes ensuring that costs and expenditures provide value for money and are aligned to government priorities;
  • Managing compensation by reaching collective agreements with Ontario Public Service (OPS) and Broader Public Service (BPS) bargaining agents, and establishing compensation frameworks to control senior executive compensation in the broader public sector;
  • Reducing the number of classified agencies to about 30 per cent less than the 2011 baseline by March 2015;
  • Working closely with the Premier’s Advisory Council on Government Assets to review Ontario’s alcohol and electricity entities; and
  • Ensuring the prioritization and approval of the government’s infrastructure investments

Ministerial Priorities

Most of the specific directions to Ministers are not surprising and reflect the 2014 Budget, the Liberal election platform and this summer’s Speech from the Throne.  That said, there are a number of specific initiatives the government says it intends to pursue, including:

  • Developing of a Canadian Energy Strategy with other provinces and territories – a major cross-provincial effort to assert themselves in a perceived federal vacuum;
  • Establishing a new long-term climate change strategy. There is potential for this to be a significant initiative;
  • Creating and implementing the new Farms Forever Program, which will help preserve the productive capacity of agricultural land close to major urban centres. This issue, and the next stage of the Provincial Growth Plan, is key for the development industry;
  • Reviewing the scope and effectiveness of the Ontario Municipal Board, working with the Attorney General and key stakeholders;
  • Leading a review of Ontario’s system of employment and labour standards;
  • Continuing to change Ontario’s funding system for hospitals, Community Care Access Centres and long-term care homes so that it reflects the care that people need and receive;
  • Developing a strategy to expand Legal Aid support – a critical issue in a sizeable part of the legal community; and
  • Conducting an ongoing review of Information and Information Technology to modernize service delivery and products across all ministries.

For details on each Ministry’s mandate letter, links to each are provided here:

Aboriginal Affairs

Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Attorney General

Children and Youth Services

Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade

Community and Social Services

Community Safety and Correctional Services

Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure



Environment and Climate Change


Finance: Ontario Retirement Pension Plan

Francophone Affairs

Government and Consumer Services

Health and Long-Term Care

Health and Long-Term Care: Long-Term Care and Wellness

Intergovernmental Affairs


Municipal Affairs and Housing

Natural Resources and Forestry

Northern Development and Mines

Pan/Parapan American Games Secretariat

Research and Innovation

Seniors’ Secretariat

Tourism, Culture and Sport

Training, Colleges and Universities


Treasury Board Secretariat

Women’s Directorate