Finance Minister Vic Fedeli is one of several high-profile ministers demoted in a major cabinet shuffle announced Thursday by Premier Doug Ford.
The Progressive Conservative government has faced weeks of criticism after near-daily stories emerged of cuts that were hidden in Fedeli’s April budget.
Environment Minister Rod Phillips, who played a major role in the cancellation of the province’s cap-and-trade program, will replace Fedeli, who will be in charge of economic development.
Fedeli’s budget rollout was criticized as several cuts came to light — from childcare to public health and legal aid.
Sources with first-hand knowledge told CityNews the premier was unaware cuts to municipalities would be retroactive and was furious when he found out.
After losing a very public battle with Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ford was forced to back track and pause the cuts.
Lisa MacLeod, who angered parents over her handling of the autism file as minister of children, community and social services is taking over the tourism, culture and sport portfolio.
MacLeod has taken a lot of heat from the government’s massive overhaul to the autism program.
She initially announced more children would get less funding — capping a childhood budget based on age and income, regardless of need. MacLeod was adamant the government would not budge and the change was necessary to get 23,000 children off the wait-list for therapy.
But again, the government had to back down after parents of children with autism united in protest.
The PCs are now doubling the funding; however, parents say the entire system has been thrown into chaos. There is speculation her Ministry may be divided with the autism file going to a different Minister.
Another minister being demoted in the shuffle is Education Minister Lisa Thompson who will be responsible for government and consumer services.
Thompson has been repeatedly criticized for sending mixed messages and a nasty battle has begun to loom with teachers as their contracts expire and class sizes increase.
Merrilee Fullerton, who came under fire for changes to post-secondary education as minister of colleges and universities, will be responsible for long-term care. And Attorney General Caroline Mulroney is being moved to transportation, but will continue to be responsible for francophone affairs.
The shuffle is also bringing huge promotions for some backbencers – Stephen Lecce becomes minister of education, while Doug Downey becomes attorney general.
Health Minister Christine Elliot, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy are among the high-profile members of cabinet keeping their posts.
“After a year in office we made some changes to make sure that we have the right people in the right place at the right time to move forward in year two,” said Ford, who singled out Fedeli for the “great job” he did as finance minister.
“He did an incredible job as finance minister. There’s no better salesperson on our team than Vic Fedeli. He’s going to be bringing more jobs to Ontario and continue the boom that we see here in Ontario.”
When asked why he made such significant changes after touting a successful first year in office with the amount of legislation passed, Ford said the changes do not show a lack of confidence in the ministers who have been moved out of several high profile portfolios.
“I have 100 per cent confidence in each and every one of them. Year one is a little different than year two. We’re going to continue moving the rest of the agenda forward.”
The changes come just one year after the Progressive Conservatives swept into power and with Premier Doug Ford’s popularity at an all-time low in the polls which some suggest could hurt Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s chances of winning in Ontario in the October federal election.
Opposition NDP leader Andrea Horwath called the shuffle Ford’s attempt at throwing his own cabinet under the bus for executing the cuts he ordered.
“I’m sure that some now-demoted ministers tried to stand up to Mr. Ford, and look what happened to them,” said Horwath. “This cabinet shuffle will mean nothing if new ministers don’t stand up to Doug Ford, and start dragging the premier’s office in a new direction.”
Horwath added that appointing seven new cabinet ministers and increasing the size of cabinet by a third while firing education and health care workers sends the wrong message to the people of Ontario.
“The priorities of the Ford direction have been dead wrong, and people are paying the price,” said Horwath.
Will this cabinet shuffle help a populist premier who isn’t very popular, according to recent polls? A big part of Ford’s problems could be the promises that he made to voters.
On the campaign trail, he made it appear balancing the books would be pain free, with efficiencies and no job losses. After one year in power, it’s clear to voters it’s not that simple and there is going to be a price to pay.
Ford’s last shuffle was in November, when about half a dozen ministers were reassigned following the resignation of Jim Wilson to seek treatment for addiction issues.
The new Ontario Cabinet:
- Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs – Doug Ford
- Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and Deputy Premier – Christine Elliott
- Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions – Michael Tibollo **New portfolio
- Minister of Long-Term Care – Merrilee Fullerton **New portfolio
- Minister of Finance – Rod Phillips (Victor Fedeli)
- Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade and Chair of Cabinet – Victor Fedeli (Todd Smith)
- Associate Minister of Small Businesses and for Red Tape Reduction – Prabmeet Sarkaria **New portfolio
- Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing – Steve Clark
- Solicitor General – Sylvia Jones
- Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks – Jeff Yurek (Rod Phillips)
- Minister of Children, Community and Social Services – Todd Smith (Lisa MacLeod)
- Associate Minister of Children Women’s Issues – Jill Dunlap **New portfolio
- Minister of Labour – Monte McNaughton (Laurie Scott)
- Attorney General – Doug Downey (Caroline Mulroney)
- Minister of Transportation and Minister of Francophone Affairs – Caroline Mulroney (Jeff Yurek)
- Associated Minister of Transportation (GTA) – Kinga Surma **New portfolio
- Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities – Ross Romano (Merrilee Fullerton)
- Minister of Education – Stephen Lecce (Lisa Thompson)
- President of the Treasury Board – Peter Bethlenfalvy
- Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry – John Yakabuski
- Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs – Greg Rickford
- Associate Minister of Energy – Bill Walker **New portfolio
- Minister for Seniors and Accessibility – Raymond Cho
- Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs – Ernie Hardeman
- Minister of Infrastructure – Laurie Scott (Monte McNaughton)
- Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport – Lisa MacLeod (Michael Tibollo)
- Minister of Government and Consumer Services – Lisa Thompson (Bill Walker)
- Government House Leader – Paul Calandra