TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford is replacing his minister of long-term care, promoting a minister into the job who resigned last year after violating pandemic travel guidelines.

Merrilee Fullerton's replacement will be Rod Phillips, the former finance minister who was forced to resign last December for travelling to St. Barts while the rest of the province was told to stay at home. 

"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," Ford said in a statement Friday.

"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."

The significant change is part of a mid-sized cabinet shuffle – conducted virtually with the Lieutenant-Governor on Friday -- designed to remove some members and promote other MPPs to higher-profile posts ahead of the next election. 

Rod Phillips

While the major pandemic players, including Health Minister Christine Elliott, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Education Minister Stephen Lecce will remain in their current roles — other minister are being ejected from cabinet altogether. 

Ministers losing their portfolios include Bill Walker, Jeff Yurek, Ernie Hardeman, Laurie Scott and John Yakabuski.

Government sources say the premier is "not firing people" but instead introducing a "more geographically, ethnically representative of the province" ahead of the next election. 

While the shuffle affects 15 MPPs, it is the removal of Fullerton from the long-term care post that the most notable change. 

Fullerton has been named the minister of Children, Community and Social Services – a move that government sources say is "in no way a demotion." She will now be responsible for the third largest ministry in the Ontario government. 

Fullerton

The Ontario NDP has already criticized Phillips' return to cabinet and his new role in shaping the election platform for the Progressive Conservative party as a "bad choice."

"Doug Ford kept Rod Phillips near and dear to him even after his elaborate St. Barts vacation cover-up. Phillips jetted off to luxurious St. Barts, covering up his tracks as he went with pre-written messages, pre-recorded Christmas greetings, and a fake Zoom background, while the rest of Ontario hunkered down and followed public health advice to stay home over the holiday," the party said in a statement. 

Ross Romano, the former minister of Colleges and Universities, will now serve as the minister of Government and Consumer Services. Jill Dunlop, the former minister of Children and Women's Issues, will take over the role. 

Full list of changes

  • Jill Dunlop, MPP for Simcoe North, becomes Minister of Colleges and Universities.
  • Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, MPP for Kanata-Carleton, becomes Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
  • Parm Gill, MPP for Milton, becomes Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism.
  • Rod Phillips, MPP for Ajax, becomes Minister of Long-Term Care.
  • Dave Piccini, MPP for Northumberland-Peterborough South, becomes Minister of Environment.
  • Greg Rickford, MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, assumes a merged role as Minister of Northern Development, Mining, Natural Resources and Forestry, as well as Indigenous Affairs. This new northern and economic focused ministry will enhance development potential and sustainability in the North. Energy will transfer to a new separate ministry.
  • Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, becomes Minister of Energy.
  • Ross Romano, MPP for Sault Ste. Marie, becomes Minister of Government and Consumer Services.
  • Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, MPP for Brampton South, becomes President of the Treasury Board.
  • Kinga Surma, MPP for Etobicoke Centre, becomes Minister of Infrastructure.
  • Lisa Thompson, MPP for Huron Bruce, becomes Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
  • Stan Cho, MPP for Willowdale, becomes Associate Minister of Transportation, reporting to Minister Mulroney.
  • Jane McKenna, MPP for Burlington, becomes Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, reporting to Minister Fullerton.
  • Nina Tangri, MPP for Mississauga Streetsville, becomes Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape, reporting to Minister Fedeli.
  • Kaleed Rasheed, MPP for Mississauga East-Cooksville, becomes Associate Minister of Digital Government, reporting to Minister Bethlenfalvy.