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Doug Ford Shuffles Ontario Cabinet to Launch Year Two

Just a few weeks ago, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government marked its first year in office. While the Ford government moved quickly out of the gate to implement its action-heavy agenda, the reality of day-to-day governing has created a number of challenges. While the government received a sound majority and made no secret of its intention to do the hard work of balancing a budget when the reality of what that takes sets in, some voters have predictably not been supportive. Coupled with a somewhat disappointing budget roll-out this has had an impact on the government’s popularity, with some polls now showing the PCs in third place at 22%.  

This is not unprecedented. The situation the Ford government faces is not unlike what former Premier Harris faced in his first year after making large cuts to the public service to help get government finances under control. Left-wing stakeholders, unions and politicians protested daily and the government numbers tumbled. Premier Ford can take some solace in the fact that Harris was re-elected with a strong majority despite the upheaval.   

Given the speed with which Ford was elected leader and had to face an election, the reality is this government didn’t have a long agenda coming into office. With many of campaign promises having been implemented, there is both the need and the opportunity to launch a new agenda for the next three years. Today’s shuffle then provides an opportune moment to refresh the government’s direction and put fresh faces forward over the summer that can carry a new message to voters.  

Key Moves in Cabinet  

Today’s shuffle is comprehensive in nature, with twelve Ministers changing portfolio. The most significant move has current Environment Minister Rod Phillips replacing Vic Fedeli as Minister of Finance, with Minister Fedeli moving to Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.  

Other notable changes include: 

  • Lisa Thompson and Lisa MacLeod, who have faced significant stakeholder pushback in delivering difficult policies have been shuffled to less controversial roles as Minister of Government and Consumer Services and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, respectively, allowing the government to potentially reset several relationships.  
  • Caroline Mulroney has been moved from Attorney General to Minister of Transportation, a core public policy file for Premier Ford as the government looks to upload subway portions of the TTC to the Province. 

 There are several new faces in Cabinet, many of whom are first-term MPPs who have proven themselves as able communicators over the past year:  

 The size of the shuffle and impact on key portfolios was unexpected in a government with only one year under its belt. While most party leaders and Premiers spend months and years creating intricate power structures within their party apparatus that bind their hands in shuffles, Ford, as a relative newcomer to Ontario PC politics, is not beholden to the same allegiances and thus is not afraid to shift when he views it necessary.  

 Strategic Pivot Time 

Now that the difficult decisions have been made in moving ministers and expanding cabinet, the heavy lifting of a shuffle begins. Political staff remain in limbo until the dust settles. Some Ministers will get to choose which staff accompany them to new portfolios, while others will be expected to stay. As well, Deputy Ministers and their teams need to quickly bring new Ministers up to speed on the complexity of their files, many of whom are in the midst of significant policy transformation. However, with the House in recess until late fall, the government, for the first time since election day has some room to organize and plan for the future.    

 All eyes will be on this new cabinet, judging their performance and whether they are able to change the channel. The good news for the new Cabinet is the continued disarray of opposition parties.  The Ontario NDP under Andrea Horwath has not really provided much in the way of alternative policy since June of last year, and the Ontario Liberals remain focused on a leadership race that will not end until March 2020.  

Full Cabinet List 

Ministry  Minister                                                          
Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs  Doug Ford 
Deputy Premier and Minister of Health  Christine Elliott 
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions  Michael Tibollo 
Minister of Long-Term Care  Merrilee Fullerton 
Minister of Finance  Rod Phillips 
Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade and Chair of Cabinet  Vic Fedeli 
Associate Minister of Small Businesses and Red Tape Reduction  Prabmeet Sarkaria 
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing   Steve Clark 
Solicitor General   Sylvia Jones 
Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks   Jeff Yurek 
Minister of Children, Community and Social Services  Todd Smith 
Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issue  Jill Dunlop 
Minister of Labour  Monte McNaughton 
Attorney General  Doug Downey 
Minister of Transportation and Minister of Francophone Affairs  Caroline Mulroney  
Associate Minister of Transportation  Kinga Surma  
Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities   Ross Romano 
Minister of Education  Stephen Lecce 
President of the Treasury Board  Peter Bethlenfalvy 
Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry  John Yakabuski 
Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs  Greg Rickford  
Associate Minister of Energy  Bill Walker 
Minister for Seniors and Accessibility   Raymond Cho 
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs  Ernie Hardeman 
Minister of Infrastructure  Laurie Scott 
Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport  Lisa MacLeod  
Minister of Government and Consumer Services  Lisa Thompson 
Solicitor General  Sylvia Jones 
Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks  Jeff Yurek 
Government House Leader   Paul Calandra  

 

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