Premier Kathleen Wynne put her mark on the Ontario government as she named her first cabinet. This is her first tangible opportunity to set the stage for how she intends to govern and which people are put in place to help implement her priorities. The strong cabinet hits the refresh button, promoting a number of backbench MPPs for the first time, balancing experience with new perspectives, and ensuring regional representation from all corners of the province. In a minority government, this new cabinet is designed to be ready to govern and implement the Premier’s policy agenda, in addition to being prepared for an election at any time. H+K’s government relations team is well positioned with both the government and opposition parties, and can assist clients in presenting issues in a way that aligns with government objectives and opposition priorities.

WHAT HAPPENED

Wynne sworn in
+ As Ontario’s 25th Premier, Wynne officially succeeds Dalton McGuinty, who resigned before Wynne’s swearing in ceremony.
+ Consistent with her consensus building style, Wynne has already reached out to all Liberal MPPs, holding one-on-one meetings and discussing priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
+ Expanding her cabinet to 27 ministries, Wynne created several new portfolios to reflect her priorities; including rural affairs, seniors and the addition of “employment” to economic development and trade.

The cabinet: Key portfolios and numbers
+ Number of cabinet ministers – 27 (previously 21)
+ First-time ministers – 8
+ Women in Cabinet – 7 (previously 6)

Health and long-term care – Deb Matthews
+ Matthews remains at Health, also becoming Deputy Premier after co-chairing Wynne’s leadership campaign. Expect her priorities to remain implementation of the Action Plan for Health Care, Seniors Strategy, and look for the report from the Ontario Healthy Kids Panel to provide guidance with regards to new policy aimed at curbing childhood obesity.

Finance – Charles Sousa
+ Sousa succeeds Dwight Duncan, becoming the province’s treasurer a month before the budget is expected to be tabled. Given the short timeline, Sousa will rely on key staff and bureaucrats who have been busy preparing the budget since fall. The government’s deficit reduction focus is expected to continue.

Energy – Bob Chiarelli
+ Chiarelli takes over a ministry plagued by controversy over cancelled power plants. He is a strong choice for a tough job, but the portfolio is likely to continue giving the government trouble. One issue to watch will be renewable energy. Wynne promised more local decision making power for projects during her campaign. This is an issue the PCs have been advocating for, and could be used as a way to blunt the attack.

Transportation/infrastructure – Glen Murray
+ Wynne has stated she will focus heavily on transit in the GTA, and has tasked leadership rival turned supporter Glen Murray with implementing her agenda. This portfolio is a high priority for the government as it awaits a report from Metrolinx this spring on transit financing options. Expect all ideas including public-private partnerships and taxes to be on the table.

Education – Liz Sandals
+ First time minister Liz Sandals assumes control of a portfolio that – while not usually a trouble area for the government – has been particularly difficult over the past year. Like Sousa at finance, Sandals will draw upon staff as she begins to address the fractured relationship with teachers. This is a key priority for the administration as a whole, and is seen as critical to Wynne’s success as Premier.

Agriculture – Kathleen Wynne
+ The Premier has stated she will assume this role for at least a year. A Premier serving in another ministerial role is not unprecedented and is usually done to highlight important issues. Renewal in rural Ontario is of the utmost importance for Wynne and the Liberal Party, but it remains to be seen how she will balance both roles. Expect opposition parties to question her time and commitment to the role.

WHAT’S NEXT

Cabinet committees
+ During Premier McGuinty’s administration, ministers and backbench MPPs served on six different cabinet committees. These committees are a key piece of the government decision making structure. Wynne has yet to reveal the composition of these committees for her administration.
+ First-time ministers including Yasir Naqvi and Liz Sandals are not rookies to Cabinet discussions, having sat as non-Cabinet members on the influential Treasury Board committee.

Mandates and briefing books
+ All incoming ministers will be presented with briefing books assembled by ministry staff that detail all existing programs and issues the ministry is responsible for. These will be invaluable to Ministers as the first Question Period of the new legislative session is scheduled for February 20.
+ Typically, the Premier’s office issues mandate letters to all ministers detailing policy expectations and presenting a roadmap for the minister to follow. These are expected shortly as the government is moving quickly into the legislative session.

Staffing Premier and ministers
+ Already underway, the process of staffing each minister’s office and the Premier’s office will rapidly accelerate now.
+ Two prominent positions in Wynne’s administration have already been filled. Tom Teahan will serve as Wynne’s chief of staff – focusing on all day-to-day government activity – and Andrew Bevan will serve as principal secretary – focusing on policy.
+ Teahan: A former labour lawyer and senior advisor to Wynne during her tenure as minister of education, Teahen is expected to keep the Premier’s Office, cabinet and the government focused on the issues the Premier discussed in her leadership campaign including repairing the relationship with teachers, fiscal prudence, rural Ontario and transit in the GTA.
+ Bevan: A long-time Liberal with strong progressive social values and a background in environmental advocacy. This choice sends a signal regarding the new Premier’s priorities, which are more left than Premier McGuinty.

Speech from the Throne
+ The legislature will officially resume on February 19 with a Speech from the Throne. The speech will outline Premier Wynne’s broad priorities. MPPs will vote shortly after on a motion of support for measures contained in the speech. This is a confidence vote, meaning the government would fall and an election would begin if the government lost.

By-elections
+ With the resignations of Dwight Duncan and Chris Bentley, one of the first priorities for Premier Wynne will be determining when to hold by-elections in these ridings. By-elections must be called by August.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU

Minority government has become the new normal in Ontario. With polls showing a virtual deadlock between the three parties, the legislature is likely to remain in minority control for some time. This presents unique opportunities for driving consensus and framing issues across the aisle with both opposition and government. H+K can help you bridge the consensus you need with all three parties.

FULL LIST OF CABINET MINISTERS
+ Bob Chiarelli, minister of energy
+ Brad Duguid, minister of training, colleges and universities
+ Charles Sousa, minister of finance
+ David Orazietti, minister of natural resources
+ David Zimmer, minister of Aboriginal affairs
+ Deb Matthews, minister of health and long-term care and Deputy Premier
+ Eric Hoskins, minister of economic development, trade and employment
+ Glen Murray, minister of infrastructure and minister of transportation
+ Harinder Takhar, minister of government services and chair of the management board of cabinet
+ Jeff Leal, minister of rural affairs
+ Jim Bradley, minister of environment
+ John Gerretsen, attorney general
+ John Milloy, government house leader
+ Kathleen Wynne, Premier and minister of agriculture
+ Laurel Broten, minister of intergovernmental affairs and minister responsible for women’s issues
+ Linda Jeffrey, minister of municipal affairs and housing
+ Liz Sandals, minister of education
+ Madeleine Meilleur, minister of community safety and correctional services, and minister responsible for

Francophone affairs
+ Mario Sergio, minister responsible for seniors
+ Michael Chan, minister of tourism, culture and sport, and minister responsible for the 2015 Pan/Parapan

American games
+ Michael Coteau, minister of citizenship and immigration
+ Michael Gravelle, minister of northern development and mines
+ Reza Moridi, minister of research and innovation
+ Ted McMeekin, minister of community and social services
+ Teresa Piruzza, minister of children and youth services
+ Tracey MacCharles, minister of consumer services
+ Yasir Naqvi, minister of labour