Meet Ontario Premier Doug Ford's newly shuffled cabinet
Premier Doug Ford unveiled a major restructuring of his cabinet Thursday, removing Vic Fedeli from his role as Ontario’s Finance Minister in the wake of a disastrous budget rollout that’s left the Progressive Conservative government drowning in negative publicity.
The stunning shake-up, which had been in the works for weeks, also saw Lisa Thompson shuffled out of the education portfolio and Lisa MacLeod losing her post as Minister of Children, Community and Social Services — two high profile demotions in files that have been stricken with controversy since Ford took office.
"Every one of our cabinet ministers, I feel, have done a good job, but we can always do a better job,” Ford said after the cabinet shuffle. “We made some changes to make sure that we have the right people in the right place at the right time to move forward in year two.”
Ford’s new cabinet line-up includes MPPs who are seen as highly skilled communicators with a proven ability to minimize controversy while striking a tone the government is looking to project.
Moving into the Finance Minister’s role is Rod Phillips, a first-time MPP who navigated tricky waters in the environment portfolio — as the government legislated an end to cap and trade and redesigned the Endangered Species act. The former CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation will now be tasked with softening the blow of future budget cuts, while keeping the province on the path to balancing the budget in 2023-24.
Taking over the thorny education portfolio is Stephen Lecce — a major step up for an MPP who many pegged as an eventual shoo-in for cabinet. Lecce, a former staffer in Stephen Harper’s government, wears a number of hats including Deputy Government House Leader and Parliamentary Assistant to the minister of Infrastructure and the Premier.
As Education Minister Lecce is faced with upcoming contract negotiation with teacher’s unions, ongoing layoffs announcements from school boards and continuing to sell the government’s controversial changes to classroom sizes and the introduction of mandatory online courses in Ontario high schools.
Current Economic Development Minister Todd Smith picks up the baton on the one file that has caused the most consternation for the Ford government — Autism. As Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Smith will face a litany of furious parents, worried about how the new Ontario Autism Program funding model will affect their child’s development.
As the Government House Leader Smith has been a go-to communicator for the PCs, often pinch hitting on multiple files while also going on the attack against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While Christine Elliott remains minister of health, the government is creating a new long term care portfolio giving Merrilee Fullerton the task. Taking over the responsibilities of Mental Health and Addictions is Michael Tibollo, who becomes an associate minister.
Other changes include Jeff Yurek moving into the Environment portfolio, Monte McNaughton is the new minister of labour, Doug Downey becomes the Attorney General, while Caroline Mulroney takes over as Transportation minister.
As for the demotions, Fedeli remains in cabinet but becomes the new minister for economic development, Lisa Thompson is the new minister for government and consumer services, while Lisa MacLeod has been named the new minister of Tourism a culture and Sport.