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Ford shuffles and expands cabinet as legislature rises

Steve Clark, who resigned over the Greenbelt scandal, is the new government house leader
Premiere Doug Ford~posted to Twiter Jan 23 2022small~edit one~crop
Premier Doug Ford at the cabinet table / Photo from Doug Ford's X page @fordnation

Hours after the legislature wrapped up its spring sitting, Premier Doug Ford shook up his front benches.

Ford shuffled and expanded his cabinet to 36 members, while also appointing Steve Clark — who resigned as housing minister over the Greenbelt scandal — as government house leader. 

Clark’s new post does not include a seat at the cabinet table.

Almost half of Ford’s cabinet are either new additions or fresh to their roles.whatsapp-image-2024-06-06-at-51611-pm

Most key ministers, however, retained their primary portfolios, including Sylvia Jones as deputy premier and Minister of Health, Paul Calandra as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Peter Bethlenfalvy as Minister of Finance, Doug Downey as Attorney General, Caroline Mulroney as Treasury Board President and Minister of Francophone Affairs, and Prabmeet Sarkaria as Minister of Transportation. 

However, Stephen Lecce has been named Minister of Energy and Electrification and the former energy minister, Todd Smith, has been named to Lecce’s former role as Minister of Education.

There are six new cabinet ministers. Mike Harris Jr., MPP for Kitchener—Conestoga and son of former premier Mike Harris, is the new Minister of Red Tape Reduction, a post held by Parm Gill before he resigned in January to run for the federal Conservatives.

Natalia Kusendova-Bashta, the MPP for Mississauga Centre and a registered nurse, is the new Minister of Long-Term Care. 

Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West, became the youngest member of the provincial parliament when he was elected in 2016 at the age of 19. He is the new associate minister of energy-intensive industries, under Lecce.

Stephen Crawford, MPP for Oakville, is now the associate minister of mines.

Trevor Jones, MPP for Chatham-Kent—Leamington, is taking on a new associate minister position — emergency preparedness and response — under Treasury Board.

Nolan Quinn, MPP for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, is the associate minister of forestry.

Vijay Thanigasalam, MPP for Scarborough—Rouge Park, is the new associate minister of housing. 

Shortly afterwards, NDP and official Opposition Leader Marit Stiles told reporters at Queen’s Park that “we now have the most bloated cabinet in the history of Ontario.”

“This has been a disastrous year, again, for this government — for the people of Ontario — full of scandals and schemes and messes and reversals, and musical chairs at the cabinet table is not going to fix this mess,” Stiles said. 

Lecce was the sole minister to speak with reporters following the swearing-in ceremony. 

Asked why the premier wasn’t doing so, he pointed to a cabinet shuffle back in 2019, saying this wasn’t the first time he’d been asked to speak on behalf of cabinet. 

“It's an honour to do so … the premier's message is this is a serious team to bring us forth within the coming years to build the economy, to keep taxes low, to make life affordable — that's the mandate of this team.”

Lecce took over the role of education minister from Lisa Thompson in June 2019, and served in the role for nearly five years. 

The education file has been a contentious one under the Ford government, with education workers’ unions fighting against class size increases, online learning requirements and staffing challenges. 

Lecce oversaw two rounds of collective bargaining, taking on his ministerial role as the first was getting underway. That round saw rotating walkouts from education workers.

The latest saw Lecce reach a deal with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation that would see the parties bargain until a certain date and then send the remaining issues to arbitration. He then encouraged other unions to follow suit. Ultimately the government reached deals with all unions, though issues like pay and Bill 124 remedies were sent to arbitration for several. 

He also signed the $10-a-day child-care deal with the federal government, though many in the sector have raised concerns about the sustainability of the current funding model — something the government has promised to update. 

“It has been a very inspiring experience for me to learn from young people in Canada and Ontario, and I'm grateful for the opportunity as we build child care, build schools, and we refocus on back-to-basics,” he said. 

Smith, who’s taking over the education file from Lecce, had a busy past few months announcing various new and refurbished energy projects aimed at securing enough power to keep the province’s lights on as a supply shortage looms in the 2030s. 

The rest of the 2020s are, however, taken care of thanks to the latest round of procurements from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). 

In early May, the IESO procured just over 2,000 megawatts of energy from natural gas, biomass, and energy storage facilities. 

The IESO is now setting its sights on shoring up supply into the next decade with another new procurement process targeting only non-emitting power sources like wind, solar, hydro, and biofuels. 

Lecce will also oversee the planned refurbishment of the Pickering nuclear plant. In January, Smith outlined plans to revamp the plant to keep it open for 30 years. 

The four-reactor project is still subject to approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission but Ontario Power Generation President (OPG) Ken Hartwick said at the time he's confident they'll get the go-ahead. 

Pickering is responsible for about 14 per cent of Ontario's electricity and has been producing power since the mid-1980s. It was slated to close in late 2026. The project could be completed in the mid-2030s, according to the government.

In the meantime, the province put up $2 billion for the project's first phase, which includes engineering, design and procurement work.

The province is also in the midst of refurbishing the Darlington nuclear plant, expanding the Bruce nuclear plant, and building a small modular reactor (SMR) at Darlington. 

SMRs are much smaller than traditional nuclear reactors and produce less energy. It would be the first of its kind ever built. OPG started preparing the site for the project late last year and construction should be done by 2028.

Earlier in the day, Calandra, then the government house leader, moved to end the legislative session a week early and to delay the return to the legislature until Oct. 21, meaning MPPs will get a 19-week summer break. Last year, the house rose on June 8 and came back on Sept. 25 for a 15-week break. 

The premier kicked off a round of early-election speculation earlier this month when he repeatedly declined to rule out going to the polls before the next scheduled election date in June 2026. He later ruled out calling one this summer or fall but declined again to rule out a contest in 2025.

Other ministers retained their roles as well: 

  • Ford retained his title as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
  • Raymond Cho remained Minister of Seniors and Accessibility.
  • Jill Dunlop remained Minister of Colleges and Universities.
  • Vic Fedeli remained Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.
  • Michael Kerzner remained Solicitor General.
  • Andrea Khanjin remained Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
  • Michael Parsa remained Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
  • David Piccini remained Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.
  • George Pirie remained Minister of Mines.
  • Kinga Surma remained Minister of Infrastructure.
  • Nina Tangri remained Associate Minister of Small Business as part of the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.
  • Michael Tibollo remained Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions as part of the Ministry of Health.
  • Charmaine Williams remained Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity as part of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.
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