Ford chooses Cabinet Stability to “Get It Done”

Premier Ford has announced the first Cabinet of his new mandate. Ford’s 29 ministers will help chart the government’s course as the Premier looks to continue Ontario’s pandemic recovery, tackle cost-of-living challenges, and address the housing crisis – all while delivering on the major infrastructure projects promised during the campaign. With familiar faces back at the Cabinet table, some new faces joining, and regional representation that reflects Ford’s majority, here’s what you need to know about Ontario’s new Executive Council:

  • The major players in Ford’s Cabinet
  • Sylvia Jones takes over as Minister of Health and Deputy Premier
  • Six rookie MPPs get a seat at the table
  • Regional balance
  • All politics are local – municipal experience in Cabinet
  • Other notable changes

The major players in Ford’s Cabinet

Nineteen ministers held on to their existing portfolios. This is a nod to the stability Ford’s pre-election Cabinet brought to the government, as well as the need for Ford’s senior ministers to immediately tackle today’s pressing challenges while implementing an ambitious mandate. Familiar faces include:

  • Peter Bethlenfalvy – Minister of Finance
  • Prabmeet Sarkaria – President of the Treasury Board
  • Caroline Mulroney – Minister of Transportation
  • Kinga Surma – Minister of Infrastructure
  • Steve Clark – Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
  • Monte McNaughton – Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development
  • Vic Fedeli – Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
  • Doug Downey – Attorney General
  • Stephen Lecce – Minister of Education

The other ministers returning to their same roles are: Paul Calandra (Long-Term Care), Raymond Cho (Seniors and Accessibility), Jill Dunlop (Colleges and Universities), Merrilee Fullerton (Children, Community and Social Services), David Piccini (Environment, Conservation and Parks), Greg Rickford (Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs), Todd Smith (Energy), Lisa Thompson (Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs), Stan Cho (Associate Transportation), Michael Tibollo (Mental Health and Addictions).

Minister Jones takes over as Minister of Health and Deputy Premier

Although this Cabinet is largely defined by the status quo, Ford was tasked with the major decision of replacing Christine Elliott as Minister of Health. He tapped Sylvia Jones for the job, giving her the additional role of Deputy Premier.

Minister Jones has been the Member of Provincial Parliament for Dufferin—Caledon since 2007. In Ford’s first mandate she served as Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, and later as Ford’s Solicitor General. She played an instrumental role in the government’s pandemic response, particularly her oversight of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.

Jones’ exposure to the challenges facing Ontario’s health system over the course of the pandemic makes her a natural fit for the job. She’ll be tasked with the difficult job of increasing the system’s capacity, both through capital development and operational human resourcing, as Ontario continues to recover from the pandemic.

Six rookie MPPs get a seat at the table

Michael Kerzner – Minister Kerzner takes on the role of Solicitor General, the largest portfolio going to a first-time MPP. Kerzner represents the riding of York Centre and is founder of the biosciences firm DNA Labs Canada.

George Pirie – Minister Pirie joins Cabinet as the Minister of Mines – dividing up Minister Rickford’s former “super Ministry.” Pirie, the former Mayor of Timmins, won his Timmins seat in a historic victory against the NDP. His role in Cabinet reflects the increasing importance of the North for the Ford government.

Graydon Smith – Minister Graydon Smith heads up the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The former Mayor of Bracebridge now represents Parry—Sound Muskoka after winning a tight race against the local Green candidate. Smith’s role was also created out of Minister Rickford’s previous “super Ministry”, further dedicating Cabinet resources to Ontario’s Northern development.

Neil Lumsden – Minister Lumsden takes over the Tourism, Culture and Sport portfolio. The former CFL player secured the long-time NDP seat of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. His strategic victory in Hamilton, and professional sport experience, made him the natural choice for this role.

Charmaine Williams – Minister Williams takes on the role of Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity. Williams is a former Brampton City Councillor and the first Black woman to serve as a PC Cabinet minister. Williams notably unseated NDP Deputy House Leader Sara Singh in Brampton Centre.

Michael Ford –   Minister Michael Ford takes on the role of Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism.  Ford joins Queen’s Park after serving as the City Councillor for Etobicoke—North, and at age 28 will be one of the youngest members appointed to Cabinet. He is also Premier Ford’s nephew.

Regional Balance

Ford’s 83-member majority increased the need to ensure his Cabinet represents all regions of the province. Minister Pirie (Timmins) and Minister Graydon Smith (Parry Sound—Muskoka) join the ranks of other Northern Ministers Rickford (Kenora—Rainy River) and Fedeli (Nippissing). Toronto and the GTA are well represented by Ford himself (Etobicoke North), Minister Surma (Etobicoke Centre), Minister Parsa (Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill), Minister Kerzner (York Centre), and Minister Stan Cho (Willowdale). Eastern Ontario is also represented with Minister Todd Smith (Bay of Quinte) and Minister Fullerton (Kanata—Carleton) returning to Cabinet.

Notably, neither of Ford’s major wins in Windsor or Essex made Cabinet. Andrew Dowie (Windsor—Tecumseh) and Anthony Leardi (Essex) are two Cabinet-hopefuls to watch as they look to make a name for themselves at Queen’s Park.

All politics are local — municipal experience in Cabinet

Steve Clark stays on as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.  Tackling the housing crisis is top of mind for Ontarians and Clark will certainly have his work cut out for him. Interestingly, Clark is joined by seven other members of the Executive Council with municipal government experience:

  • Doug Ford – former Toronto City Councillor
  • Michael Ford – former Toronto City Councillor
  • Raymond Cho – former Toronto City Councillor
  • Charmaine Williams – former Brampton City Councillor
  • Steve Clark – former Mayor of Brockville
  • Vic Fedeli – former Mayor of North Bay
  • George Pirie – former Mayor of Timmins
  • Graydon Smith – former Mayor of Bracebridge

These ministers’ experiences are sure to help inform how Clark implements policy to address the housing crisis. The Ford government’s relationship with municipalities strengthened in the latter half of his first mandate, but on-going fiscal pressures, infrastructure needs, and the need to accelerate the building process mean these relationships will face pressure over the coming years. A Cabinet that understands the position of municipalities will be important to making progress and implementing meaningful change.

Other Notable Changes

Ford chose not to return Lisa MacLeod or Ross Romano to Cabinet, making way for newer voices to head up some of Ford’s Ministries. Other existing Ministers received small promotions, like Minister Rasheed (Public and Business Service Delivery) and Minister Gill (Red Tape Reduction). Returning PC caucus member Michael Parsa joins Cabinet for the first time as the Associate Minister of Housing. Minister Parsa’s newly created Ministry highlights the importance of tackling the housing crisis to the Ford government. His job, alongside those of his seasoned Cabinet colleagues, will be essential to making progress on the government’s goal to build 1.5 million homes in the next ten years.