Once again, welcome to Ford Nation.
Premier Doug Ford’s new cabinet was sworn in today, in a ceremony at the Legislative Assembly that was open to the public to attend. Those of a certain vintage will recall David Peterson’s first cabinet being sworn in similarly in 1985. The gesture is certainly one that suggests an openness and is intended to be a contrast to their predecessors who were less open and accessible to the public. Since the PCs campaigned on and continue to reiterate that they will be a government for the people, this is a good start.
There are few surprises in this cabinet. It is smaller than Kathleen Wynne’s last cabinet, at 21 members, suggesting a leaner approach. The list of who made it is below, with our thoughts to follow.
The PCs elected 76 MPPs on June 7th, from all regions of Ontario. As cabinets are usually intended to have representation that includes regional, gender, ethnocultural and other demographic considerations, Doug Ford had plenty to work with; all regions of the province are included in this cabinet. The cabinet is also a good balance of veterans and newcomers. You may remember that Jim Wilson and Ernie Hardeman served in the last PC government, that ended in 2003. There are a number of veteran MPPs who have served only in opposition (Fedeli, Elliott, MacLeod, etc) until now. There is experience at the federal level (Rickford), and experience in business (Bethlenfalvy).
It is no surprise that Vic Fedeli is the new Minister of Finance. As finance critic he had an in-depth knowledge of the province’s finances and will have a shorter learning curve than anyone else in the PC caucus. Fedeli has been dogged in his criticism of the Liberals’ management of the province’s finances. We can anticipate that shortly he will begin to come out with “the real numbers” as every new government does, and we can expect the Liberals to be publicly skewered by Fedeli more than once.
It is also really no surprise that Christine Elliott becomes both health minister and Deputy Premier. As well as having helped Doug Ford immeasurably during the campaign itself, Elliott has a strong following within the PC Party, as witnessed by her receiving 50% of the vote at the party’s leadership process that concluded in May. Our health clients will know from her time as PC health critic that she is passionate about the subject, a passion she repeated when she appeared on our webcast a couple of months ago.
Speaking of PC leadership candidates, Caroline Mulroney becomes the new Attorney General. This is an important appointment; one of her first orders of business will be to challenge the federal government in court over carbon taxes. As a newly elected MPP Mulroney will likely want to proceed somewhat cautiously at first; however, she probably won’t have the benefit of very much time. She will have plenty of media attention as this unfolds. Mulroney is a trained lawyer whose thoughtful approach became evident during the leadership process.
Veteran MPP Laurie Scott will be tasked with undoing the next minimum wage hike as Minister of Labour. As well, there were a number of elements in recent Liberal legislation that the PCs will likely want to revisit (Bill 148 comes to mind). While we certainly expect the Ford government to take a pragmatic, case by case approach to issues management, the last PC government did have some problems with labour relations. Scott will be expected to help manage those relationships; in an era of more austerity, that might not be easy.
Former federal MP Greg Rickford assumes the stewardship of what used to be three ministries as Ontario’s new Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs. A northerner himself, Rickford had served as Stephen Harper’s Minister of Natural Resources. While not the same portfolio, this experience will prove valuable for the new Minister, who will have to deliver on Doug Ford’s fundamental promise to “clean up the hydro mess”. It is encouraging that the same minister will be responsible for Indigenous Affairs. As we at Sussex know, some tremendous partnerships with indigenous communities have been created in the energy space.
Doug Ford did well to appoint Steve Clark at Municipal Affairs and Housing. Clark is a former municipal politician. Just as importantly, he is from eastern Ontario and somewhat insulated from the GTA and the multiple housing and municipal issues in this region. Clark is a veteran MPP and will do well there. Remember the new Premier served on Toronto city council, and that there will be municipal elections this October across the province.
Rod Phillips will likely need all of the experience he has acquired in his well-documented career to be the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. For starters, note that Climate Change has been dropped from the name of the ministry. All Phillips will have to do, initially anyway, is dismantle the cap and trade regime; deal with the consequences of the cancellation of the Green ON program; work something out with Quebec and California (now that Ontario will be out of the cap and trade market), and deal with Ontario companies who spent hundreds of million of dollars on carbon credits who will now be asking what they are supposed to do with them. We wish him well; this is not a small job.
We are pleased to see Todd Smith become Minister of Government and Consumer Services. While not a high-profile position, this is a ministry with which we have to deal frequently on behalf of our clients. A number of regulatory regimes reside here; it was certainly a busy enough place during the last term of government. Smith is a good retail politician, skilled at explaining governmental processes in plain language. A wise selection by Doug Ford.
Overall, this will be a busy cabinet, supported by a strong Office of the Premier that is led by veterans of both the Harper government and Queen’s Park. Given the regional representation around the cabinet table and the PC caucus itself, the new government will be less Toronto centric than the previous Liberal government was. Premier Ford represents a Toronto riding, so there is little danger of Toronto being under represented; this government will just be more regionally balanced. The new cabinet includes 14 men and 7 women and may be criticized for gender inequality. However, with women running Health, Education, and the Attorney General’s ministry, there is little risk that the prominence of women in this cabinet will be minimized.
We look forward to working with the new government, most of whom we know and have dealt with before. As always, please feel free to contact your Sussex consultant with any questions.