Premier Doug Ford unveiled his new, slightly expanded cabinet on Friday, with several senior positions unchanged and Sylvia Jones taking on the role of health minister, one of the province’s most important files.
Jones, MPP for Dufferin-Caledon, was Solicitor General in Ford’s previous government. She succeeds as health minister to Christine Elliott, who did not seek re-election after serving in the role for more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ford’s new executive board has 30 MPs. His last cabinet had 28 members.
“We are ready to unite behind a positive vision, ready to unite behind a plan for Ontario’s future,” Ford said after the swearing-in ceremony at Queen’s Park. The address included sections taken directly from his campaign speech.
“I really believe, I feel it deep in my heart, that this is a government that should represent everyone,” he added.
The new cabinet includes seven women – up from nine in the previous one – as well as seven people of color and five rookie MPs.
Mandate letters for new Ontario ministers will again not be made public, according to Ford spokeswoman Ivana Yelich. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Canada has said it will hear the government’s appeal on whether or not it can keep Ford’s 2018 mandate letters secret.
Several key portfolios will see the same MPs return as ministers. The list includes Peter Bethlenfalvy in finance, Stephen Lecce in education, Caroline Mulroney in transport, Monte McNaughton in labour, Paul Calandra in long-term care, Steve Clark in municipal affairs and housing and Doug Downey in the post of attorney general.
Merrilee Fullerton will remain in the Children, Community and Social Services portfolio, which includes autism file navigation. A handful of people from the autism community stood on the legislature lawn just after the outdoor swearing-in ceremony to protest the growing waitlist for services.
MPP Michael Ford receives Cabinet post
One of the rookie MPs appointed to Cabinet was Michael Ford, the Prime Minister’s nephew, who will serve as Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism.
Asked if he felt any nepotism contributed to his appointment, Michael Ford replied: “I completely reject that.”
“I had the honor to serve on the Toronto District School Board, to serve on Toronto City Council in one of the most diverse communities…so I’m honored to be here and do the work hard as the residents of Ontario will expect.”
Ford was also asked about his nephew’s nomination on Friday and replied, “He’s very qualified, has 10 years of political experience.”
Graydon Smith, who was elected in Parry Sound-Muskoka, will take over as Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. The portfolio was held by Greg Rickford, who remains Minister of Northern Development and Aboriginal Affairs.
He also previously held the mining portfolio, which is now in the hands of George Pirie. The former mayor of Timmins won that city’s seat after the NDP held it for 32 years. A press release indicates that it has a specific mandate to develop the Ring of Fire.
Charmaine Williams’ appointment as associate minister for women’s social and economic opportunities makes her the first black woman to serve in a PC cabinet, she told CBC News.
“It’s a major moment in history,” she said. “I know it opens so many doors and it just challenges those narratives and stereotypes and breaks down those barriers.”
Several other ministries have been modified or have had their mandates added. Prabmeet Sarkaria remains President of the Treasury Board, but with an expanded mandate for emergency management and procurement. Kinga Surma remains infrastructure minister, but with an additional mandate for government real estate.
Kaleed Rasheed is promoted from the post of Associate Minister for Digital Government to the newly created portfolio of Minister for Public and Business Service Delivery.
Michael Parsa is promoted to cabinet to become associate housing minister, a new post.
MacLeod, Romano left the firm
Missing from the list is Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod, who served in a number of positions in Ford’s previous government, most recently as minister of heritage, sport, tourism and cultural industries. New MPP Neil Lumsden, a former Canadian Football League player who won the NDP’s longtime seat in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, will assume that role.
Sault Ste. Marie MPP Ross Romano, who previously served as Minister of Government and Consumer Services, was also excluded.
Besides Ford, the full list of cabinet ministers includes:
- Sylvia Jones, Minister of Health and Deputy Prime Minister.
- Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance.
- Paul Calandra, Minister of Long-Term Care, Minister of Legislative Affairs and Government House Leader.
- Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility.
- Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
- Doug Downey, Attorney General.
- Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities.
- Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.
- Michael Ford, Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism.
- Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
- Parm Gill, Minister for Red Tape Reduction.
- Michael Kerzner, Solicitor General.
- Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education.
- Neil Lumsden, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport.
- Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.
- Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transport and Minister of Francophone Affairs.
- David Piccini, Minister for the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
- Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
- George Pirie, Minister of Mines.
- Kaleed Rasheed, Minister for Commercial and Public Service Delivery.
- Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.
- Prabmeet Sarkaria, President of the Treasury Board.
- Todd Smith, Minister of Energy.
- Kinga Surma, Minister of Infrastructure.
- Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
- Stan Cho, Associate Minister of Transportation.
- Michael Parsa, Associate Minister of Housing.
- Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.
- Charmaine Williams, Associate Minister for Women’s Social and Economic Opportunities.
Ford ‘adding more cars to its gravy train’: NDP
On Friday, the opposition New Democratic Party called on the new cabinet to table a new budget to end what they say are $2.7 billion cuts currently in Ford’s plan.
“The bottom line for the people is that it doesn’t matter who’s in Ford’s cabinet if the government isn’t on the people’s side. We’re calling on Ford to direct this cabinet to stop the cuts and start solving the problems. that we all face,” NDP MP Jeff Burch said in a statement.
The Conservative government’s budget, tabled in April, calls for $198.6 billion in spending, including billions earmarked for infrastructure this year and over the next decade. The document promises $158.8 billion over 10 years for highways, public transit and hospitals.
The NDP says it wants to see the government hire tens of thousands of health care workers, reduce class sizes and scrap Bill 124, which limits pay increases for public sector workers like teachers and nurses to 1 % per year.
The party also criticized the size of the new cabinet, saying Ford was “adding more cars to its gravy train” by increasing the number of MPs from 21 in 2018 to 30.
“As everyday families face painful inflation with no relief in sight, Ford is making sure more of its own people can live more comfortably,” Burch said.
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner also released a statement calling for more action on climate change, housing affordability and farmland protection. He also pointed to a lack of diversity in Ford’s new cabinet.
“It is disheartening to see only 7 women out of 30 ministers. Representation matters, and all governments should strive to achieve gender parity,” he said.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said that although Lecce has been renamed education minister, it hopes for ‘a change in approach’ when it comes to decision-making on issues faced by students and education workers.
The union, which represents about 83,000 primary school teachers, early childhood educators and other education staff, is moving towards bargaining with the province and says it plans to challenge the government if necessary to secure funding and the resources students need.
“While experience matters, [ETFO] believes it is more important to have a Minister of Education who values the role of educators, believes that public education must be protected with adequate investment, and works collaboratively with education partners,” said he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Autism Coalition was among those at Queen’s Park on Friday, aiming to send the message that “the autism community can’t wait any longer.”
The group said in a statement that although Ford promised to “clean up the waiting list” for children and young people with autism who need help, the list has since more than doubled.