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Kathleen Wynne shuffles cabinet

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has moved the chairs around in her cabinet following the resignation of Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Linda Jeffrey.

Two backbenchers have been elevated to cabinet, while three others have changed jobs.

Bill Mauro of Thunder Bay takes over Jeffrey’s portfolio, while Oakville’s Kevin Flynn talks over labour from Yasir Naqvi.

Naqvi takes over community safety and correctional services from Madeleine Meilleur, who becomes Ontario’s first francophone attorney general.

Her predecessor John Gerretsen, who has said he won’t run for re-election, is minister without portfolio and chairman of cabinet _ taking over from Jeffrey.

Jeffrey announced earlier Tuesday that she’s leaving provincial politics to run for mayor of Brampton.

She said she was troubled by the spending controversies surrounding current Mayor Susan Fennell, which include a sky-high salary and the approval of hundreds of millions of dollars for projects that weren’t completed or started.

But the provincial Liberals have spending scandals of their own, including pulling the plug on two unpopular gas plants, which will cost taxpayers up to $1 billion.

Jeffrey stood by the cancellation of the plants, despite the extraordinary cost that will likely become political cannon fodder.

“It was a difficult decision, but I’m focused on what’s happening in Brampton,” she said.

“Right now, I see some very troubling things that are being discovered on a daily, weekly basis. I think respect for taxpayers is an extraordinarily important quality and I plan to bring that to the job.”

Wynne has six months to call a byelection in Jeffrey’s riding of Brampton-Springdale, unless there’s a general election.

She noted that Jeffrey was the first woman elected to represent Brampton in provincial politics.

“I will personally miss Linda,” Wynne said in a statement. “She is a woman of integrity and honesty and I wish her all the very best in her next endeavours.”

Jeffrey said she’s been lobbied to run for mayor of Brampton over the past year, with former Progressive Conservative premier Bill Davis _ who represented his hometown in the legislature _ being one of the most vocal proponents.

But she said she’s only been considering it seriously since January.

Jeffrey, who was first elected in the Liberal sweep of 2003, has also held the portfolios of natural resources, labour and minister responsible for seniors.

She was also the point person when it came to fielding questions about whether troubled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford should step aside after he confessed to smoking crack cocaine.

Jeffrey is the latest Liberal to announce that she’s calling it quits since Wynne took the top job just over a year ago.

Laurel Broten quit last July, following her cabinet colleagues Margarett Best, Dwight Duncan, Greg Sorbara, Chris Bentley and former premier Dalton McGuinty. Backbencher Kim Craitor also stepped down.

Joining the exodus are Gerretsen, Government Services Minister John Milloy, former cabinet ministers Rick Bartolucci, Harinder Takhar and Donna Cansfield, as well as MPP Phil McNeely, who have all said they don’t plan to run again.