It’s official: at 11 a.m. on Friday, Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford was sworn in as Ontario’s 26th premier by Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell at Queen’s Park. Shortly thereafter, the LG named Ford’s cabinet to their ministries.
Ford’s cabinet is made up primarily of Tory MPPs who’ve been at Queen’s Park for several years, but there are also some new faces.
Here’s what we know.
Big names at the big ministries
Aside from the premier’s office itself, all of the most significant cabinet portfolios have gone to veteran MPPs. (Ford, of course, is a rookie MPP.)
Ford has picked Victor Fedeli as his minister of finance — he’ll be drawing on the Nippissing MPP’s experience as finance critic to address what will be the biggest challenge of Ford’s coming term in office: implementing the tax cuts Ford has promised without making cuts in service spending that could be unpopular enough to make the Tories a one-term government. Fedeli is well-versed in the province’s public accounts, but his appointment wasn’t guaranteed: names like Rod Phillips and Peter Bethlenfalvy had also been tossed around as potential finance picks.
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The new minister of health and long-term care is Christine Elliott, who’s returning to Queen’s Park having previously served as a member of the legislative assembly from 2006 to 2015. She became familiar with the health-care file as an opposition MPP, and after resigning (temporarily, it turns out), she served as the province’s first patient ombudsman. Elliott will also serve as deputy premier.
Education goes to Huron–Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson. Thompson has been an MPP since the 2011 election, one of many Tories elected that year when the Liberals were reduced to a minority. While Thompson never held the education portfolio as an opposition critic, her status as a rural MPP could be a signal that the Tories plan to make rural school closures a high priority in the coming term.
The one novice politician assigned to a powerful ministry is Caroline Mulroney, who, along with Elliott, challenged Ford for the party leadership earlier this year. Mulroney, like Ford, is a first-time MPP, but she was a successful lawyer in the private sector and will now serve as Ontario’s attorney general.
Ministry name changes
The government may already be signalling certain policy intentions through ministry names, some of which are changing under Ford. The former Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is now Environment, Conservation, and Parks; it will be held by Rod Phillips from Ajax. Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation is now Indigenous Affairs, and will be held by Greg Rickford from Kenora. (Rickford, a former federal MP, will also hold the portfolio for a newly combined ministry of Energy, Northern Development, and Mines. For now, Indigenous Affairs will remain a separate portfolio that Rickford holds concurrently.) The post-secondary education portfolio, which had been renamed Advanced Education and Skills Development under the Liberals is reverting back to its previous designation of Training, Colleges, and Universities.
The Tories seem to have abandoned some of the naming choices the Liberals adopted late in their tenure at Queen’s Park, paring them down and opting for more straightforward terminology.
New MPPs other than Mulroney, Phillips, and Rickford have also been handed significant files. Peter Bethlenfalvy will be Treasury Board president, responsible for scrutinizing government spending. Kanata–Carleton’s Merillee Fullerton will be the minister of training, colleges and universities. Michael Tibollo, representing Vaughan–Woodbridge, will hold the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, overseeing the province’s police and correctional centres.
A lack of diversity
The larger and more diverse PC caucus could have made it easier for Ford to assemble his team with an eye to gender and racial balance. But Ford’s move to hand files overwhelmingly to MPPs who served in the last legislature means that his cabinet won’t be winning any diversity prizes for now.
The Ford cabinet is overwhelmingly white and male: of the 21 ministers (seven fewer than in Wynne’s last cabinet), only seven are women, and only one — Raymond Cho, minister responsible for seniors’ affairs — is a person of colour. If past experience is any guide, however, Ford’s cabinet will almost certainly change over the next four years. As newly elected MPPs distinguish themselves, younger and more diverse faces are likely to be named to cabinet — and, notwithstanding Ford’s gesture toward belt-tightening with a smaller cabinet, he’s very likely to have more ministers holding more portfolios when he runs for re-election four years from now.
The complete list
Peter Bethlenfalvy - President of the Treasury Board
Raymond Cho - Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
Steve Clark - Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Christine Elliott - Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and Deputy Premier
Victor Fedeli - Minister of Finance and Chair of Cabinet
Doug Ford - Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
Merrilee Fullerton - Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities
Ernie Hardeman - Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Sylvia Jones - Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport
Lisa MacLeod - Minister of Children, Community and Social Services and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues
Monte McNaughton - Minister of Infrastructure
Caroline Mulroney - Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs
Rod Phillips - Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Greg Rickford - Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs
Laurie Scott - Minister of Labour
Todd Smith - Minister of Government and Consumer Services, and Government House Leader
Lisa Thompson - Minister of Education
Michael Tibollo - Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Jim Wilson - Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
John Yakabuski - Minister of Transportation
Jeff Yurek - Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry