New faces added to an experienced, stable cabinet

After a historic win earlier this month, Premier Doug Ford appointed his cabinet who will be charged with implementing the PC government’s key priorities. In contrast to Ford’s 2018 cabinet, that by necessity leaned heavily on opposition-era MPPs for their experience and insight, Ford now taps a roster of returning MPPs with deeper executive experience representing a diverse range of ages, backgrounds, and constituencies and adds some newly elected faces to the table.

Premier Ford remarked on the pending economic troubles facing our democracy and called for unity behind a positive vision and plan for the future. Ford cited his work with other governments on securing $14B in new investments for the auto sector, working with Indigenous partners on the road to the Ring of Fire, clean green steel in Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie, building transportation to address congestion and growth, working for workers, and bold solutions to increase the supply of housing. His new cabinet will help drive this agenda.

The strong performances from cabinet members who managed government priorities throughout the past four years – seen as instrumental in delivering a larger second mandate for the Ford PCs — has resulted in many keeping their roles for a second term. Executive Council thus remains largely intact with a stable roster that includes returning Ministers Peter Bethlenfalvy (Finance), Caroline Mulroney (Transportation and Francophone Affairs), Doug Downey (Attorney General), Stephen Lecce (Education), David Piccini (Environment, Conservation and Parks), and Steve Clark (Municipal Affairs and Housing).

Some ministers received expanded portfolios, including Labour Minister Monte McNaughton now assuming the immigration file, Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli adding small business, and Treasury Board President Prabmeet Sarkaria now overseeing emergency management and procurement including Supply Ontario. Kaleed Rasheed becomes Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery, renamed from the Minister of Government and Consumer Services.

Newcomers were added to bolster the executive’s regional representation. First-time MPPs in cabinet include Neil Lumsden from Hamilton East-Stoney Creek (Tourism, Culture and Sport), Michael Kerzner from York Centre (Solicitor General), Graydon Smith of Parry Sound-Muskoka (Natural Resources and Forestry), George Pirie of Timmins (Mines), Charmaine Williams of Brampton Centre (Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity) and Michael Ford of York South-Weston (Citizenship and Multiculturalism).

Discharged from the cabinet table are MPPs Lisa MacLeod, Ross Romano, and Nina Tangri who has indicated her sights are set on the Speaker’s chair. MacLeod released a statement sharing her health challenges and her intention to take time to rest and recuperate over the next few months. Despite these changes, it can be expected they will remain influential members of the PC caucus.

Introducing the New Deputy Premier and Minister of Health

Long-time MPP, Progressive Conservative party stalwart, deputy premier and health minister Christine Elliott did not seek re-election, leaving Premier Ford with a significant role to fill, both in his cabinet and in his party. Premier Ford has chosen Sylvia Jones to be both his new deputy and Minister of Health. She sits as MPP for Dufferin-Caledon and served most recently as Solicitor General and previously as Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services and as Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

Minister Jones worked closely with Premier Ford and Minister Elliott to manage the pandemic, including in the planning and execution of the province’s vaccine rollout. Her support of the Premier and the cabinet during those tough times, her dedication to the health and safety of the people of Ontario, her ability to ask the right questions, and make tough decisions distinguished Minister Jones and set her up as Minister Elliott’s successor.

The Minister of Health (MOH) has always been a top cabinet position in our provincial government but with post-pandemic repercussions that span mental health impacts, an ongoing need for health system transformation, a severe backlog of care and surgeries to address, staggering nursing and health care professional shortages, extraordinary hospital capacity issues, a need for fundamental change in long-term care, new and in-progress hospital infrastructure projects, and ongoing federal, provincial, and territorial negotiations on health transfers, Minister Jones is not only being tapped to fill big shoes left by Minister Elliott, she has a big, critical job before her and Ontarians will be watching.

Cabinet Newcomers

  • Michael Ford, (York South – Weston) becomes Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism: Minister Ford, nephew of Premier Ford, is a newly elected MPP who made the jump from Toronto city councillor for Etobicoke. Previously, he served as a Toronto District School Board trustee for Ward 1 Etobicoke North.
  • Michael Kerzner (York Centre) becomes Solicitor General: Minister Kerzner is a newly elected MPP who bring entrepreneurial experience from the technology and bioscience fields. He replaces Minister Jones.
  • George Pirie (Timmins) becomes Minister of Mines: Having served as Mayor of Timmins until his election earlier this month, Minister Pirie defeated long-time NDP MPP Gilles Bisson and assumes responsibility for mines which has been broken out into its own ministry once again. Development in the Ring of Fire has been a focus for Premier Ford and Minister Pirie will bring his executive experience as CEO for Placer Dome Canada to the role.
  • Neil Lumsden (Hamilton East) becomes Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport: Minister Lumsden led an impressive career in sports, first as an athlete at the University of Ottawa, then over a ten-year long run in the Canadian Football League during which his team, the Edmonton Eskimos, won three Grey Cups. Following his time on the field, he became the Chief Operating Officer of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and later the Chief Operating Officer of the 2003 Road World Cycling Championships and eventually the Chief Executive Officer of Drive Marketing. He replaces outgoing Minister Lisa MacLeod who was not re-appointed to cabinet.
  • Graydon Smith (Parry Sound – Muskoka) becomes Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry: Minister Smith assumes natural resources and forestry responsibilities in their return to a standalone minister. Before being elected this past election, Minister Smith spent more than fifteen years serving the Muskoka and Bracebridge communities as a Deputy Chair and District Councillor for Muskoka and the Mayor of Bracebridge. He also worked extensively with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) where he served as Chair of the Health Task Force and Chair of the Small Urban Caucus, eventually becoming the President of AMO.
  • Charmaine Williams (Brampton Centre) becomes Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity: Minister Williams had previously served her city as the first black woman elected to the Brampton City Council where she has served for the last three and a half years. While she worked in politics, Minister Williams continued to support her community as a Behavioural Consultant for the Reach Out Centre for Kids using her certification as a Child and Youth Worker from Centennial College.

Familiar Faces with New Responsibilities

  • Parm Gill (Milton) promoted to Minister of Red Tape Reduction: In elevating this portfolio to a full-fledged ministry, Premier Ford sends clear signals that red tape reduction will continue to be a focus for his government. Minister Gill had previously served as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Also a former federal member of parliament, he has experience as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veteran Affairs and the Minister of International Trade.
  • Michael Parsa (Aurora – Oak Ridges – Richmond Hill) becomes the new Associate Minister of Housing: A bump from his previous roles as the Parliamentary Assistant to the President of the Treasury Board and the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Minister Parsa will now support Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark in tacking Ontario’s affordable housing crisis.
  • Kaleed Rasheed (Mississauga East – Cooksville) becomes Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery: Minister Rasheed previously served as the Associate Minister of Digital Government; a role eliminated from the cabinet table. Expect the Ford government to incorporate the digital mandate into this larger service delivery approach. Minister Rasheed also previously served as the Chair of the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly and as the Chair for the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.
  • Greg Rickford (Kenora – Rainy River) becomes Minister of Northern Development and returns as Minister of Indigenous Affairs. Having recently been responsible for an amalgamated super ministry that also included the mining and natural resources portfolios, he can now dedicate his focus to regional development and Indigenous community building.  Before his time in Ontario’s cabinet, Minister Rickford also served as a federal member of parliament, parliamentary secretary and minister holding varied responsibilities spanning natural resources, Indigenous affairs, economic development, and official languages. He has worked as a nurse serving Indigenous communities across Northern and has additional degrees in common and civil law from McGill University as well as an MBA from Université Laval.

‘Get it Done’ Governance

In many ways, this is a new government. Observers may miss this point given that Premier Ford has won a second consecutive term, but don’t mistake this as the same government as the one Ontarians have become accustomed to over the past four years.  If we cast our minds back to the first half of Premier Ford’s first term, we will collectively remember that the government was becoming bogged down in issues management and struggling to find their footing and voice. Just as the government was finding its place and beginning to drive an agenda, we were hit with the difficulties of the pandemic as “Open for Business” – to borrow Ford’s own election slogan – literally became a challenge for all businesses as the province entered various pandemic control measures.  In other words, the first term of the Ford government was one where the Premier and his key ministers were on their back foot, governing well, but not driving the agenda that they hoped to as they assumed office.

Remember too that many suggested it was the Ontario Liberals and Premier Kathleen Wynne who lost the 2018 election, rather than an outright win by the Ford PCs. This may have been an observation open to debate then but there is no question that 2022 saw Ford win handily. This is his victory. Only three times in the last 50 years has a government had back-to-back majorities – Mike Harris, Dalton McGuinty, and now Doug Ford. And, it’s Premier Ford who is the only one to increase his party’s seat count in his second time facing the electorate, an impressive validation for the PCs as a party, and Ford as a leader.

Expect to see a more embolden Premier Ford as a result. He no longer needs to bring the disparate parts of the Ontario PC government together, old allegiances from different ends of the party do not need to be treated with the same sensitivity, and perhaps most importantly, Ford is firmly in control of the government and the direction he wants to take it.  In other words, it is only now that Premier Ford can truly drive his own agenda, rather than the agenda of others including those from within his own party.  Premier Ford is now on his front foot with both opposition parties facing the disarray that comes with leadership races, and a caucus that sees Ford as the one firmly in control.

Ontario’s Plan to Build

The first major order of business for the Ford government following today’s cabinet swearing in will be to recall the legislature to pass the Ontario budgettabled on the eve of the election. The reintroduced budget is likely to be slightly adjusted from the one presented in the spring to accommodate additional promises, such as boosting the Ontario disability support payments (ODSP), made while on the campaign trail.

Over the summer, ministers’ offices will hire staff and take part in briefings conducted by ministry officials. The Premier’s office is expected to see a shake up while all political staff who served prior to the election have been asked to reapply for positions through a web portal. Traditionally, many staff stay on to continue to serve their ministries or follow their ministers to new roles, it will still be some time before the shuffle of roles and responsibilities is settled. It is further expected that more of a consistent staffing structure will be applied across offices.

Watch out for a shakeup on the public service side designed to complement the new cabinet – typically, an experienced deputy minister is paired with a rookie cabinet minister to help guide them in their new role – to follow this summer.

As noted, this will be a different government from what Ontarians have seen before. Applying the same approach, with the same messages, and the same contacts assuming today’s government is an extension of the last would be a strategic misstep in advocacy efforts.

Full Cabinet List

  • Doug Ford, Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
  • Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance
  • Paul Calandra, Minister of Long-Term Care and Minister of Legislative Affairs and Government
    House Leader
  • Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
  • Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
  • Doug Downey, Attorney General
  • Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities
  • Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, with an additional
    mandate for small business
  • Michael Ford, Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism
  • Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
  • Parm Gill, Minister of Red Tape Reduction
  • Michael Kerzner, Solicitor General
  • Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education
  • Neil Lumsden, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport
  • Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development
  • Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation and Minister of Francophone Affairs
  • David Piccini, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
  • George Pirie, Minister of Mines
  • Kaleed Rasheed, Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery
  • Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development and Minister of Indigenous Affairs
  • Prabmeet Sarkaria, President of the Treasury Board, with an expanded mandate for
    emergency management and procurement, including Supply Ontario
  • Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry
  • Todd Smith, Minister of Energy
  • Kinga Surma, Minister of Infrastructure, with an additional mandate for government real estate
  • Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Stan Cho, Associate Minister of Transportation
  • Michael Parsa, Associate Minister of Housing
  • Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health, and Addictions
  • Charmaine Williams, Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity

Authored by members of H+K’s Public Affairs + Advocacy team including Stephanie Dunlop, James Lin, Shanice Scott, Alexandra Valcour, Isha Chaudhuri, and Rebecca Marsh.