This time next year, the Provincial Election will be complete, and a new government will be in charge of Ontario for another four-year term. For now, it’s kind of like there’s a new government as Premier Doug Ford took part in the regular pre-election tradition of shuffling the cabinet. Some ministers got new gigs, some back-benchers got promotions, and, as always, there were a few surprises.
One of the surprises is that Ajax MPP Rod Phillips is back in cabinet just six months after being fired as Finance Minster for taking an ill-timed Caribbean vacation just as Ontario was shutting down in the second wave of the pandemic. Even more surprising is that Phillips is replacing another controversial minister on a key file. Phillips is now the Minister of Long-Term Care while Dr, Merrillee Fullerton is being moved to the position of Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
Fullerton was one of a number of ministers that many observers at Queen’s Park expected to be moved to different pastures due to their performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another was Education Minister Stephen Lecce who, despite criticism during the pandemic and during last year’s labour strife with Ontario’s teachers, has survived this shuffle and maintains his seat as the head of the province’s school system.
In other moves, Lisa Thompson has moved from Government and Consumer Services to Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; Ross Romano is taking over Minister of Government and Consumer Services after serving as Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities; Jill Dunlop was promoted from the Associate Minister of Children’s and Women’s Issues to Minister of Colleges and Universities; and, King Surma is moving up from Associate Minister of Transportation to Minister of Infrastructure.
Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria is now President of the Treasury Board, allowing Peter Bethlenfalvy to focus all his attention on being Minister of Finance. A new portfolio for the Minster of Energy was also created and Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith will fill that position. Energy used to be under the Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry Minister, so Greg Rickford has one less thing to focus on his plate since he’s staying that position. He’s also still the Minister of Indigenous Affairs
The now 29 member cabinet features six new members, and five departures; Jeff Yurek, Ernie Hardeman, Laurie Scott, and Jeff Yakabuski, who have all served in cabinet since the Ford government was sworn into office in 2018, have been shuffled out, and so has Bill Walker, who was appointed as Associate Minister of Energy in the last cabinet shuffle in June 2019.
In all, only two people – Ford and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark – have remained in their original government positions since 2018. Ten ministers saw no change to their portfolios, and there were 23 different changes made to cabinet that were announced in Friday’s shuffle.
“With 21 per cent of adults now fully vaccinated as Team Ontario sets new records in daily shots, we can be confident that the worst of the pandemic is behind us,” said Premier Ford in a statement. “As we continue our work to rebuild and support Ontario’s health system, our renewed team is well positioned to deliver on the priorities that matter to Ontarians, including getting more people back to work, making life more affordable, supporting businesses and job creators and building transit infrastructure.”
Check out the full chart of cabinet changes over the this term of the Ontario legislature blow: