Ford’s Mid-Mandate Cabinet Shuffle Prioritizes Energy, Economic Growth

As we reach the midpoint of Premier Ford’s second term, Ontario’s Cabinet shuffle marks a significant moment for the provincial government. This move, made by the Premier and his closest advisors, is designed to put the caucus members with the right skills and experience in Cabinet positions that will drive the government’s agenda for the next two years – or less. While there is speculation about an election as early as Spring 2025, this shuffle is less about election readiness and more about advancing critical priorities in the latter part of the term.  

Ford’s Cabinet has grown to 36 Ministers. While a seemingly large number, it is not uncommon for governments with large caucuses to face internal pressure to provide opportunities for rising stars and reward top performers. This move is no exception. Ford chose to keep his senior-most Ministers in place – Finance, Treasury Board, Health, Infrastructure, and Transportation – and elevate the importance of other portfolios through revised mandates, fresh faces, and a stronger focus on economic growth. 

Education, Energy, and Electrification 

After five years as Minister of Education, Minister Stephen Lecce was shuffled to the newly minted Ministry of Energy and Electrification, similar to the role previously held by Minister Todd Smith. The emphasis on “electrification” highlights the government’s increasing focus on energy transition—building on the economic development work of Minister Vic Fedeli in the electric vehicle space. Lecce takes over the Ministry following his predecessor’s release of the Electrification and Energy Transition Panel’s report in December of last year, which considers how Ontario could prepare for a future where nearly all energy comes from electricity. The ideas in this report will likely shape Lecce’s early priorities in his new role.  

For Smith’s part, he picks up the challenging education portfolio from Lecce. Smith is no stranger to challenging political files. As Government House Leader, he was often called upon to address the government’s issues of the day. As Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services he handled the important and sensitive responsibility of overseeing programming and funding decisions for some of Ontario’s most vulnerable populations. Smith—also a parent—is expected to draw on these skills and experiences as Education Minister while advancing Premier Ford’s “back to basics” education priorities. 

Restructuring to Advance Key Priorities 

The shuffle sought to integrate and spotlight additional aspects of Ford’s mandate—primarily through an economic development lens—with revised mandates and expanded roles for several current Ministers. For example, Minister Greg Rickford’s portfolio now includes a focus on First Nations Economic Reconciliation. This underscores a renewed commitment to fostering economic partnerships and reconciliation with First Nations communities and the central role First Nations communities will play in Ontario’s economic future. 

Minister Stan Cho moves to the newly structured Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Gaming, which now includes responsibility for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). By transferring responsibility for OLG out of the Ministry of Finance – where it has traditionally been held – the government is placing a higher profile on the gaming sector, underscoring its potential as a significant revenue stream and an area of innovation (note that iGaming Ontario saw $2.4B in gaming sector revenues in 2023-2024). Minister Cho, who has an interest in the gaming sector from his earlier role as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance, is expected to bring a focused and enthusiastic approach to his new role, supporting the Ministry of the Attorney General’s on-going rollout and growth of Ontario’s iGaming market. 

Minister Todd McCarthy keeps his role as Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery, now with the addition of procurement and Supply Ontario to the Ministry’s mandate. The move reflects the government’s on-going efforts to improve efficiency and transparency in government procurement – recall that Supply Ontario, now directly overseen by Ford’s former Chief of Staff Jamie Wallace, is expected to achieve $1 billion in annual savings through centralized government procurement. Moving this file from the Treasury Board Secretariat gives McCarthy the opportunity to focus his efforts on building a procurement process that is cost-effective, transparent, and benefits both government and the public. 

What to Watch for 

With speculation about an early election, Ford’s new Cabinet will be highly scrutinized and expected to hit the ground running. Future electoral success will be dependent on this team delivering major wins on core economic development, infrastructure, and pocketbook issues (jobs, affordability, housing). Particular attention will be given to new Ministers representing important geographies. Minister Mike Harris Jr. – now Minister of Red Tape Reduction – represents Kitchener-Conestoga and Minister Natalia Kusendova-Bashta – a nurse, and now Minister of Long-Term Care – represents Mississauga Centre. Both have been high performing MPPs since 2018 and will be critical to the Ford government’s path to victory in the next election.  

Overall the shuffle reflects a re-commitment to Ford’s existing mandate, strengthened by recent by-election wins in Milton and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex as well. The Legislature is now scheduled to return in October, following the annual International Plowing Match. As MPPs of all stripes return to their ridings and constituents for the summer, Ford and his fresh crop of Ministers will begin preparing for the fall legislative session in earnest.  

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