Premier Doug Ford made big changes to his front bench yesterday for the first time since the Progressive Conservative party won a large majority in last year’s election.
Political leaders like to shake things up for many reasons – to bring in fresh blood, to address new priorities or to set a new tone. They don’t like it so much when it’s forced on them by a high-profile resignation, particularly amid a prolonged controversy.
Indeed, the summer legislative recess provided little respite for the Ford government amid the Greenbelt affair. In the past month, independent legislative officers have released two critical reports. First came one by outgoing Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk; then Integrity Commissioner David Wake focused even more critically on Steve Clark’s work on the file, or lack thereof. It was Clark’s resignation as Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister on a quiet Labour Day weekend that forced the Premier’s hand.
And today, Premier Ford announced a review of the Greenbelt in an effort to put the political controversy behind him. Certainly, NDP leader Marit Stiles and Liberal Party leadership contenders smell blood and plan to continue to press the advantage that this file seems to be giving them.
- Former Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, is replaced by Paul Calandra, who continues to serve as Government House Leader.
- In the Know: Minister Calandra is a political bulldog but he’s being asked to take down the temperature on the Greenbelt file while refocusing on the government goal of building 1.5 million homes. Calandra was tasked previously with cleaning up the COVID-19 fallout in long-term care homes. He’s a political veteran, having been Parliamentary Assistant to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
- Prabmeet Sarkaria becomes Minister of Transportation.
- In the Know: Minister Sarkaria is a rising star within Ontario conservative circles. Sarkaria and his political staff are known to be effective and he’ll be a useful asset on contentious transit issues, like the Ontario Line subway project and the proposed Highway 413. Sarkaria represents the riding of Brampton South, which will benefit from key transit and roadway projects committed to during the government’s first mandate.
- Caroline Mulroney becomes President of the Treasury Board and retains her portfolio as Minister of Francophone Affairs.
- In the Know: Minister Mulroney has been a steady hand in Cabinet and a key member of the government’s critical Treasury Board. Mulroney – who is switching portfolios with Sarkaria — assumes a significant economic role with central responsibility for government spending generally and specifically. It’s always fundamental for stakeholders seeking public funds to position themselves effectively with Treasury Board.
- Stan Cho becomes Minister of Long-Term Care.
- In the Know: Minister Cho is an effective political operative and communicator. He’ll be expected to announce thousands of new long-term care beds – a continuing government priority — while also improving overall living conditions following COVID-19.
- Rob Flack becomes Associate Minister of Housing.
- In the Know: Minister Flack is doubling up the government’s focus on the politically-critical housing file. He’ll focus on particular aspects of the file, such as modular housing, which has the potential to be a quicker, cost-effective solution for aspiring homeowners.
- Todd McCarthy becomes Associate Minister of Transportation.
- In the Know: Minister McCarthy, who was a high-profile litigator before being elected, replaces Minister Cho and is expected to support the government’s politically-sensitive delivery of transit infrastructure on time and on budget. Before his promotion to cabinet, the rookie MPP was Deputy Government Whip and Parliamentary Assistant to the Treasury Board President.
- Nina Tangri becomes Associate Minister of Small Business.
- In the Know: Minister Tangri returns to a portfolio she held before the 2022 election. She put her name forward unsuccessfully for Speaker following the election and then was reinstalled in cabinet last March as Associate Minister of Housing.
- The Hon. Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
- The Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance
- The Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
- The Hon. Doug Downey, Attorney General
- The Hon. Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities
- The Hon. Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
- The Hon. Michael Ford, Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism
- The Hon. Michael Parsa, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
- The Hon. Parm Gill, Minister of Red Tape Reduction
- The Hon. Michael Kerzner, Solicitor General
- The Hon. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education
- The Hon. Neil Lumsden, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport
- The Hon. Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development
- The Hon. David Piccini, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
- The Hon. Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
- The Hon. George Pirie, Minister of Mines, with a mandate to develop the Ring of Fire
- The Hon. Kaleed Rasheed, Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery
- The Hon. Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development and Minister of Indigenous Affairs
- The Hon. Todd Smith, Minister of Energy
- The Hon. Kinga Surma, Minister of Infrastructure
- The Hon. Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
- The Hon. Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
- The Hon. Charmaine Williams, Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity
The Bottom Line
The Ford government has had a turbulent summer. The cabinet shuffle is meant to strengthen the front bench before it meets an energized opposition when the legislature reconvenes on September 25.
Regarding Premier Ford’s press conference today in which he announced a re-evaluation and review of the Greenbelt: It’s critical that stakeholders in the housing and development sectors position themselves effectively, and sensitively, to offer doable policy solutions.
Ministers will spend the next three weeks being briefed on their new files and preparing for the return of the legislature. Stakeholders should prepare for a busy fall session as the Government releases its fall economic statement and prepares for budget 2024.
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